Deep-Rooted Drug Stores: “Looking Back”

Reprinted here by special permission of the author, Cindy Beckman, a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history.

In the early days of medicine, drugs were often dispensed by country doctors who made house calls. The doctor usually had two bags, one for his tools and one for the variety of remedies he would prescribe. As towns grew, doctors opened up offices with drug stores usually established somewhere nearby.

Various sources say that the drug store on the southeast corner of Oak and Front was originally established in 1890 by Dr. J.F. Kincheloe. Kincheloe Drug later became Hamilton Drug and then Hayden Drug before becoming Greeson’s Drug.

Dr. William R. Greeson opened up his drug store in 1908. When F.U. Halter built the three-story Halter Building in 1917, Greeson’s became the anchor tenant on the first floor. Upstairs were the offices of several prominent doctors—Gordy, Archer, Dunaway, Sneed, Taylor. Patients trudged up the stairs to see the doctor and later came back down to fill their prescriptions at Greeson’s.

Although Greeson passed away in 1923, the drug store continued to dispense drugs. Royce B. Wilkins became the pharmacist and filled prescriptions until his unexpected death in 1941. After his death, his widow continued to operate the drug store and brought J.S. Rogers, Jr. in as pharmacist. She also purchased the stock of Ben and Dave Laney in the Greeson Company.

This is the Greeson’s that most life-long residents refer to when they get that nostalgic look in their eye. Greeson’s was the place where people gathered with friends to enjoy their favorite comfort food and soda fountain creations. It was a popular hangout for both teens and adults.

In 1966, Dwayne Goode, owner of Village Rexall Drug in the ConArk Village Shopping Center, purchased Greeson’s drugs and other medicines as well as the prescriptions from Margaret Wilkins before the drug store went on the auction block. Bell’s Men Shop opened up in the location in March, 1967 after an extensive remodel. Owned by Cecil Bell, it was managed by Jim Hoggard.

W.D. Cox opened Cox Drug in 1935 at 910 Front Street but in 1949, he leased the newly remodeled Smith Building at the southeast corner of Front and North streets. He moved the drug store into the northern half of the building and subleased the southern half to Jumper Shoes. His wife opened up Lynette’s Tot Shop in the old storefront.

In 1949, Cox Drug added a complete dining facility that served three meals a day, seven days a week. As was common in most drug stores, he also added a soda fountain.

David L. Baker of Marshall bought Cox Drug in 1957 and changed the name to Baker IDL Drug. He got his pharmacy degree from the University of Oklahoma before serving in the Korean War. After the war, he returned to Marshall where he worked at Baker Drug with his father, J.C. Baker, Sr., and his two brothers, Robert and J.C., Jr. who were also pharmacists. His father had been operating the drug store since before World War I.

Dwayne Goode began working at Baker’s Drug in Conway when he started pharmacy school in 1961. He continued to work there until he graduated in 1964. After the first year, Baker allowed him to fill prescriptions by himself. He remembers filling around 175 prescriptions a day.

After completing his residency, Goode returned to Conway and partnered with Baker in August, 1966 to open up Village Rexall Drugs in the ConArk Village Shopping Center. After putting in a long, hard year, Goode bought out Baker’s share.

The next year John Reese bought Baker Drug but did not change the name. Baker went on to develop and own several other drug stores and shopping centers. James “Jimbo” Hendrickson would later take over Baker Drug.

Baker opened up Sav-On Drug on the east side of Harkrider in 1976. There he worked with his sons, John and James, until his retirement in 2001. John and James Baker still operate the drug store today.

Dwayne Goode moved his drug store to the west side of Harkrider after his neighbor, Safeway, moved from ConArk Shopping Center around 1980. He also changed the name to American Drug. Later, he opened American Food and Drug at College and Donaghey. He still co-owns American Drug in Greenbrier.

These locally-owned pharmacies faced stiff competition as chain store pharmacies moved into Conway. In 1999, three Faulkner County pharmacists sued Wal-Mart for predatory pricing in their pharmacy. The case drew national attention as the pharmacists claimed Wal-Mart had intentionally priced some products below cost in order to draw customers. Although the pharmacists initially won their case, the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned it on appeal.