UPDATED — After almost 40 years of being a thriving part of the neighborhood around 13th and Oliver, Ken-Mar Family Drugs at Providence Square is closing to make way for a Walmart Neighborhood Market.
“Man, I hate to see them go out of business. Wow,” says Stanette Hawkins, who worked at the drug store in the 1980s. “I just can’t believe that.”
Owner and pharmacist Darrel Steinshouer is rather surprised himself.
The landlord “sent me a letter. You got 60 days to get out.”
Saturday is the last day in business.
“It’s a loss,” Steinshouer says. “It’s just been part of my life.”
He and his pharmacist wife, Sylvia, and their store have been integral to people’s lives in that area through the decades after they opened in 1972.
“It’s amazing because everybody has a story,” says Carla Eckels, a reporter with KMUW, 89.1-FM.
Eckels used to work for Ken-Mar Family Drugs and says four generations of her family have shopped there.
The Steinshouers “just really have helped people in this community,” Eckels says.
“This one little lady came in and said, ‘Darrel, can you give me my white pills?’
“Now, there are thousands of white pills, and he went right on back. It was amazing. I just went, ‘How in the world?’ ”
The Steinshouers are residents of College Hill, but their lives have revolved around the 13th and Oliver neighborhood.
“I actually know the people in this community better than where we live,” Sylvia Steinshouer says.
At one time, the store was 6,000 square feet and had a soda fountain that was a neighborhood gathering spot.
“He had the same old men come to the soda fountain . . . every morning,” Sylvia Steinshouer says of her husband.
When one of her three children was a baby and would stay behind the counter, “They would go by and throw a dollar in her bassinet.”
Former employees say the Steinshouers were like family.
“They were like second parents to us,” Hawkins says. “They pushed us to go to school just like their own kids.”
David Hoyer, who worked at the store 30 years ago, today is an engineer.
“They taught us responsibility,” he says of the Steinshouers.
Sylvia Steinshouer insisted the young people who worked for her learn how to count change in their heads.
“It’s a good life skill, too,” Hoyer says. “To this day I still do that in my mind.”
Sylvia Steinshouer credits her husband with forging a bond with the community.
For instance, one time a customer couldn’t get out of his house because of the weather, so Darrel Steinshouer delivered his medicine.
“He was gone forever, and it was really snowy that day, and I thought, oh, he must have gotten in trouble,” Sylvia Steinshouer says.
“Three hours later he came home,” she says. “He’d shoveled the whole block.”
There also were countless middle-of-the-night trips to get someone’s medicine.
“You may not get that at a Walgreens or Walmart, no offense to them,” Eckels says of such personal service.
Sylvia Steinshouer already has been partly retired.
So what is Darrel Steinshouer going to do next?
Today, his store is only 1,500 square feet.
Hawkins says there’s nothing like Walmart in the area.
“I’m sure it is needed.”
That doesn’t mean the community won’t feel the loss of Ken-Mar Family Drugs, though.
“They were always gracious to everybody,” Eckels says.
She describes a level of service beyond regular helpfulness and patience.
“That’s what we’re going to miss.