Eighty-five years ago, in the middle of America’s Great Depression, a young man by the name of Jules Terry opened a drug store on Bloomfield Avenue in Verona. He worked there for five decades, often alongside his wife and sons. His brothers would open Terry’s Drug Stores in other towns. Along the way, Terry’s small Verona store would get quite a bit bigger and pioneer several changes in retail pharmacy and healthcare services.
The Terry family sold their store to Les Gwyn-Williams 35 years ago, and it remained a staple in the center of Verona for all those years. But its run of service to the Verona community will come to an end soon: Terry’s Family Pharmacy sold its prescription business to Walgreen’s in June and put its gifts, toys, accessories and apparel on clearance. So take a few minutes to take a look back at a business that defined Verona for generations.
Terry’s first store in Verona was a few doors east of its current location, and far smaller. By the time Jules’ son Gene graduated from college, the business had moved to its current site and expanded into the storefront next door. Terry’s was winning accolades for its business and many awards for its pharmacy displays, and other businesses were taking note: Terry’s was one of the first drug stores in the entire country to carry Estee Lauder cosmetics.
“We were known for that,” says Gene Terry, who now lives in Florida where he is helping to expand his wife’s luxury travel business. “We had six cosmeticians working for us and Estee Lauder company reps would come in and do makeup sessions.”
That was the part of Terry’s that many Verona residents saw when they filled their prescriptions there. But there was much more. Terry’s struck partnerships with eight nursing homes in our area to be their exclusive pharmacy supplier. It became the in-house pharmacy at Montclair Community Hospital, which once existed on Harrison Avenue. (Full disclosure: This reporter’s life was saved by Terry’s, which donated all the medicines I needed during a severe childhood illness that was treated at Montclair Community.)
Gene Terry also started a surgical supply department, home delivery, house charge cards (“before credit cards were a thing”) and added a Christmas gift catalog to grow Terry’s gift department. At its height, the catalog was mailed to 2 million homes across America. And at the height of gift-giving season, every member of the Terry family pitched in to wrap, often until late in the evening. “I was called out on Christmas Eve,” Gene Terry recalls, “because a client didn’t have toy batteries. I went back and opened the store to get the batteries and deliver them.”
Jules Terry also became one of the linchpins of the Verona business community, serving on the original Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club, and advising the Verona Board of Health. “He was a dynamite guy,” says Gene Terry.
But Gene Terry, who also pioneered an intravenous drug compounding business that became the foundation for a national company, knows that the world of pharmacy now is much different that the one he grew up in. “CVS and Walgreens dominate the business,” he says, “when one opens, another one opens across the street. The fact that Terry’s survived this long as an independent pharmacy is legend.”
There won’t be a Terry’s Drug Store on Bloomfield Avenue the next time that Gene Terry comes up from Boca Raton. But he notes that there is still Lakeside Deli, which he once regularly called on for catered Sloppy Joe lunches. “We don’t have those in Florida.”