A small crowd gathered on South Adams Street at 8:30 a.m. Monday to watch the demolition of Baker’s Pharmacy.
The brick building stood empty, collecting gazes one last time.
Opened in 1958 during segregation, the pharmacy was the only one of its kind that provided blacks with their prescriptions.
“We were open 10 to 10, 7 days a week. It wasn’t easy,” said Kathleen Baker, the pharmacy’s owner.
The small pharmacy closed by choice in 2002. The owners said they felt it was just time to close the doors and retire.
However, their son has future plans to build another business in its place.
“They weren’t forced out; feels more like progress,” said Van Wilson of the Capital Outlook newspaper. He said it would have been a lot more emotional if it weren’t their decision.
For some patrons, the pharmacy represented their childhood; others reminisced on their days spent working there.
“Mr. Baker was always receptive to taking interns,” said Leonard Inge, director of the FAMU College of Pharmacy. Inge started at the pharmacy in 1972 and continued to work at Baker’s part time as a relief pharmacist on weekends.
“They were good people and helped a lot of folks,” said Tim Lewis, who had his first job there as a stocker and delivery boy.
Baker said it was common to see five or six students interning at one time. She added that they probably didn’t need any help with the business, but still welcomed all students who wanted to intern there.
“We provided a place for them,” she said.
Tallahassee Mayor John Marks joined Baker and one of her daughters, among others, to witness the first wall come down.
Bricks soon crumbled into a heap, making the building cave in and lean to the right. Glass shattered, leaving an array of blue, glass chips colorfully decorating the dull winter grass.
The crane went for more.
Baker’s husband, Wilmoth, did not come. Baker jokingly said she couldn’t get him out of bed.
Her eyes watered. But she assured everyone several times it was just the cold weather making her tear up.
“I hate to see it go down, but progress is being made,” Marks said.
The Bakers have become close to many in the community, including Marks who had his campaign headquarters there.
Baker explained how important it was to give back to the community.
“We did everything we could for people who couldn’t afford it. I used to watch my dad take payments of chickens and vegetables,” Baker said. “We opened charge accounts for some. Some received their meds and couldn’t pay, and never did. I don’t know how we made it financially.”
The Bakers even delivered prescriptions for free to people that could not leave their houses.
Baker said the Southside location was chosen for several reasons. Baker’s father-in-law wanted the pharmacy near his office downtown. Being close to the FAMU hospital and close to physicians made the Pharmacy an important business for the black community.
Wilson, a FAMU alumnus, grew up a block away from the pharmacy. He remembered getting ice cream and buying toys from the Bakers as he gazed at the destruction.
“It’s like looking back in time and thinking about the future at the same time,” he said. “I had a lot of fond childhood memories here.”
Most onlookers agreed the demolition was not an ill event.
“It’s part of Tallahassee history,” Lewis said.
Even though the Bakers’ daughter recalls the construction being a joyous event, she still said the demolition was hard to witness.
But her mother seemed at peace.
“It’s not hard,” Baker said. “It’s a sign of progress,” said Baker.
Baked said the building was 46 years old and could not be renovated.
“It took so many years of my life,” Baker said. “When we closed, I was glad.” Marks said in the Bakers hope to build a mini mall. One store may possibly be a pharmacy.
Contact Miranda Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org