It’s a chocolate store. Or a drug store.

City Drug is the second oldest business in town

Barbara Wilkins can certainly help you with your prescriptions. She’s a certified pharmacist for City Drug, one of the few independent drug stores left in the region. But you get the idea she would prefer to sell you some chocolate.

Wilkins knows as much about the wine, coffee and, yes, chocolate from Bulgaria, Austria and Germany as the common medications that customers need to have filled. The Kruegermann red cabbage is the best she’s tasted. The German Riesling wine isn’t as sweet, and yet it’s delicious. The honey tastes better than here. There are fish rubs she loves. The sausages are very tasty. The coffee isn’t as acidic and easier on sensitive stomachs. She’s not a salad person, but she loves the dressing they carry here. They also have herring. 

“The herring smells a little,” Wilkins said, “but it’s really good.” 

This isn’t just a sales pitch. Wilkins uses and loves the products, but then again, there is a certain amount of family pride contained in what City Drug sells from Germany and the countries surrounding it. Barbara’s mother, Sylvia Wilkins, owns the store and still works the counter. She is also a refugee from Germany who came over with her husband, Charles, during World War II. When they started City Drug, Sylvia wanted to sell some products from home. Charles reluctantly agreed and gave her half a shelf. Now it’s as much of the identity of City Drug as the prescriptions: There are two whole aisles devoted to European products. 

“People want it,” Sylvia said, and that includes Americans (who especially seem to like the sausages), but many of their customers are from Germany or the area, Sylvia said. 

Barbara works Saturdays and her brother works Sunday. She doesn’t mind working weekends, especially if it’s steady but slow enough to let her catch her breath, as it was that day, she said.

Barbara takes obvious pride in what the store offers. It separates it from CVS or Rite-Aid or Walgreens, she said, even with drug stores (including the national chains) basically being small retail outlets and grocery stores. CVS won’t carry German food, she said. City Drug also offers health products that are hard to find, such as a huge selection of braces and mastectomy bras (it even has a fitting room in the back). 

The store also seems to act as a museum of sorts to drugstores of the past. It has several displays of old drug bottles her father once used and a giant jar full of pills. Barbara wants to host a game where the customers can guess how many pills are in the jar. They also have a display of rubber ducks: Those are so popular that the store put up a sign telling customers they’re not for sale. 

But it’s the overseas treats that get the store the most attention. Sylvia hoped in late September that the recently discounted prices would get her the shelf space she needs once again: Christmas is coming, and she orders a lot of special chocolate for the season. There were already some Santas displayed on a shelf. 

“Mom finds the cutest chocolate things,” Barbara said.

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