Woodlawn pharmacy back in biz

Nearly three months after a fire ravaged Woodlawn’s Emerald Pharmacy, the local lifeline is back up and running in a smaller storefront for now.

The pharmacy has been operating out of a rented building a few blocks north on Katonah Ave. since early October, said pharmacy owner Sean Nealis.

On the night of Aug. 15, he watched a three-alarm fire rip through the neighborhood staple, and the Irish pub next door.

Many of his customers in the tightknit community rallied around the pharmacy, holding a fundraiser on Oct. 5 at The Rambling House, the Irish watering hole across the street. Hundreds of folks from the community packed the pub’s party room for the event.

“The turnout was fantastic. It was as filled as I’ve seen the room,” said Tara Carty, the pub’s manager.

Nealis, who grew up in the neighborhood, said he was thrilled to see the community come out in support of his business, a rare locally owned and operated pharmacy.

The event was started by a few of Nealis’ childhood friends and advertised through a Facebook page, “Woodlawn Strong,” that grew to hundreds of members.

“The support was overwhelming,” Nealis said. “It was more than I expected. It was great.”

The new digs are just a temporary fix while the original location at Katonah and E. 236th Street is rebuilt, said Nealis.

In the weeks after the store burned down, the family-owned and operated business continued to serve those customers through a delivery service. The medicines were stored at a Mt. Vernon pharmacy, with calls being forwarded to cell phones.

Nealis jumped at the chance to take a short-term lease on Katonah Avenue, a few blocks north of the original location. Though the store is only around a fourth of the size of the original one, it allows the pharmacy to have face-to-face interactions with its loyal clients.

“We really wanted to be on the avenue if it was possible,” Nealis said. “We missed seeing our customers.”

The entire original pharmacy has been gutted and construction begun on a new one, Nealis said.

The staff at the temporary location is doing its best to keep up with its customers, many of whom are senior citizens who do not have another pharmacy within walking distance.

“We’re not carrying everything that we used to carry,” Nealis said, “but it’s getting a little busier every day.”

Ben Kochman can be reach via e-mail at BKochman@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394

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