By Stephen J. Kotz
Barry and Susanne Marcus, who have run the Sag Harbor Pharmacy for the past 14 years, quietly took their leave from their Main Street business this week when they turned over the keys to new owners Jeffrey Yohai and Janice D’Angelo on Wednesday, July 29.
The Marcuses, who worked as a team with Mr. Marcus dispensing prescriptions and advice to clients and his wife working the counter, where she was a whiz at remembering names, said they would miss their Sag Harbor customers.
“The people here are wonderful,” said Mrs. Marcus. “Not only were they wonderful, but they were very supportive of us,” added Mr. Marcus. “Especially when they wanted to bring a CVS in,” said Mrs. Marcus, finishing his sentence for him.
Mr. Yohai, a pharmacist and former employee of the store, who lives in Huntington and has been working at a pharmacy in Cold Spring Harbor, will be a familiar face behind the counter. “It was always my plan to come back,” he said, adding that he was looking forward to running his own business in a community with a vibrant Main Street.
His partner, Ms. D’Angelo, is a former East Hampton Village police detective, who was forced to retire on disability in 2005 after enduring eight knee surgeries and four back surgeries in the years following a serious car accident while on duty in 1997.
“I’m the silent partner,” she said, “or as much as you can be in a small town.”
“The big thing is when this became available, I wanted to keep it a local owner,” she added, noting that as a Sag Harbor resident, she has been a longtime customer of the store and had been considering the idea of opening a business with Mr. Yohai for the past two years. After plans to take over the former Donald Yeisley Jewelry space across the street fell through, the duo jumped at the opportunity to take over the Marcuses’ business.
For now, the new owners are mum on their plans, other than to say they want to focus on continuing excellent customer service and freshening up the appearance of the store and making some changes to the layout, such as moving a checkout counter to the front, and adding new products.
Ms. D’Angelo said the new owners were not dismayed by reports that White’s Apothecary, which has stores in East Hampton and Southampton, recently announced that it plans to open its own store in Sag Harbor. White’s could not be reached for comment about its plans by this edition’s deadline.
As they watched their tenure come to an end this week, the Marcuses reflected on their long career. Mr. Marcus graduated from the Brooklyn College School of Pharmacy in 1965 and ran his own pharmacy in Elmont until retiring in 2001.
“But I wasn’t happy,” he recalled before nodding at his wife. “She told me I had to go back to work.”
When Mr. Marcus learned that Frank Leonardo was selling the pharmacy, he and a Brooklyn College classmate Stan Weiss jumped at the chance to buy the business.
“It was a dream come true for both us,” Mr. Marcus said. That dream ended abruptly when Mr. Weiss died unexpectedly in 2012. “He was not only my partner, he was my friend,” Mr. Marcus said.
In the 14 years that they ran the store, the Marcuses said they left certain things in place—like the now empty phone booth near the front entrance—to help keep a bit of history alive. They said they kept a pay phone there until the phone company told them they would have to pay $80 a month to keep it, Mrs. Marcus said.
“This place is typical of the kind of pharmacy you’d see 50 years ago,” Mr. Marcus said, pointing out a 1934 scale that was recently repaired and pausing to look at a display of old prescriptions, vials, bottles and other memorabilia that fills the front window along with historic photographs of the building.
But in other ways, they have kept up with the times, computerizing their systems and learning to deal with the intricacies of insurance reimbursement plans and the increased competition posed by large chains.
“Mail order,” said Mr. Marcus, when asked what was the biggest change in the pharmacy business he has seen in the past 50 years.
Although customers can buy their prescriptions online, they can’t get the personal advice of a pharmacist who knows them personally, he added.
In retirement, Mrs. Marcus said she might just get the yellow Labrador puppy she has been thinking about for years. Mr. Marcus, who enjoys playing tennis, said he will also have more time to tend to his garden at the couple’s home in Northwest Woods.
But at least some members of their family are not happy about the decision to sell the store. The Marcuses two grandchildren, Brandon and Brittany Heller, who live in Roslyn, but have worked summers at the store, were dismayed they had lost their summer jobs, Mr. Marcus said.