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Carl's Drug Store moving after 80 years

February 19, 1999

Carl's Rexall DrugsBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Carl's Rexall Drugs, one of the oldest drug stores in the country, is moving from downtown Greencastle to a modern building outside of town.

Carl's has occupied the same building at 6 E. Baltimore St., since 1918, said owner Frank H. Ervin.

"Easier access and more parking, that's why we're moving," Ervin said. "Those are the two biggest complaints my customers have."

The store will continue its in-town delivery service, he said.

The store will move to 145 N. Antrim Way into a building that until recently served as a new truck dealership.

Space will increase from 1,200 square feet to 3,000 square feet. Ervin added a sixth employee because of the move.

The store has been owned by just two families in nearly 175 years. It was opened on South Carlisle Street by Dr. Adam Carl, a country doctor, in 1825. He was born in 1800.

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His son, William Carl, took over in 1845 and ran it until 1880, when his son, Charles B. Carl, took it over. He had it for 55 years, the longest of any member of the Carl family. His son, Edward R. Carl, took over in 1935.

Edward, who had no children, sold the store to Ervin in 1974.

Ervin's connection to the store came from his father, Richard J. Ervin, who worked in it as an assistant pharmacist.

Frank Ervin graduated from pharmacy school in Philadelphia in 1973.

Ervin said he learned that the store was among the three oldest in the country from a trade magazine in 1976. The magazine said two earlier drug stores opened in New York City: Caswell-Massey Co. Ltd., founded in 1752 and W.M. Olliffe Inc., founded in 1805.

"I don't know if they're still open," he said.

A phone number for Caswell-Massey Co. Ltd. was listed by the information operator, but a recording said it was not in service. There was no listing for W.M. Olliffe, Inc.

The inventory in Ervin's store matches that of any modern drug store - jewelry, greeting cards, patent medicines, a candy counter, cosmetic and personal hygiene items and durable medical equipment such as crutches. Still, a customer walking in from the mid-19th century could find a few familiar items on the shelves.

Homeopathic medicines were sold when the store was new and are still available today. Old remedies such as turpentine and olive oil are available, albeit in more modern forms.

"They used olive or sweet oil for ear pain. They would put a dab or two behind their ears," Ervin said. "They put a few drops of turpentine on sugar cubes as an expectorant."

Ervin's store reflects mid-20th century decor, having last been remodeled in 1950.

Remnants of its past, carefully saved and cherished by owners over the years, sit high on shelves along both sides of the store. There are old metal signs offering Rexall's Milk of Magnesia, Leonard's Ear Oil and Bag Balm and ancient wooden boxes with tiny drawers that held bottles of medicines. One in particular catches the eye with its comforting message: "Doctor yourself. Positive cures with Munyon's homeopathic remedies."

Ervin is proudest of three blown-up photographs that show the store as it was from the late 19th century to the 1930s showing members of the Carl family.

The artifacts will move to the new store, Ervin said.

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