by Adam Buckman
Cooperman’s Pharmacy, a neighborhood apothecary for an estimated 93 years in Mt. Airy, closed for good last April. Aspects of the business, chiefly its prescription lists, were purchased by a CVS pharmacy located a few blocks away at the intersection of Mt. Pleasant Avenue and Lincoln Drive.
Cooperman’s was named for its founder and long-time owner, the late Daniel Cooperman, who is believed to have opened the first Cooperman’s Pharmacy in 1922. The business closed April 28 immediately upon the settlement with CVS, said Edwin Berkowitz, 73, owner of Cooperman’s since 1973.
Two large rooftop signs – one facing Germantown Avenue and the other facing Mt. Pleasant, and both reading “Cooperman’s Pharmacy established 1922” – were taken down in accordance with state law which dictates that all signage indicating a pharmacy business must be removed when the pharmacy is no longer in operation, Berkowitz said.
Before the signs were removed, neighbors flocked to the location and took pictures with their cell phones. Some bought objects from the store, including suppository molds, a number of old bottles that once held apothecary chemicals, decorative “show globes” that once contained colored water for display in the drugstore’s windows and a General Electric “monitor-top” refrigerator from the 1930s that still worked. The refrigerator had been used to store prescription products that required refrigeration, along with the pharmacist’s lunch.
“That pharmacy was good to us,” said Berkowitz, who explained that the closing came about due to a couple of converging factors, not least of which was his and his wife Lynne’s wish to retire.
Three days after Cooperman’s was closed, the entire building – the store plus the building behind and above it that contains medical offices and a residential apartment – was also sold. The buyer is local real estate investor and entrepreneur Ken Weinstein, who operates Trolley Car Diner in Mt. Airy, Trolley Car Café in East Falls and many other properties in Northwest Philly.
The pharmacy and medical-building property are located at 7060 Germantown Ave. in what had once been a large single-family residence built around 1900. The property had been owned by a partnership that included Berkowitz and two doctors with practices located in the building – Dr. Herbert Cady, pediatrician, and the late Clan R. Ali, a dentist. The partners purchased the property from the estate of Daniel Cooperman in 1981. Cooperman died in January 1980, but his name stayed on the store until the very end.
The property will not be razed, Weinstein said. “My company’s mission is to renovate vacant and/or underused properties,” he said. “Considering the properties we usually buy, this one is in very good condition and has great bones.”
Plans call for nine office suites to be carved out of the building’s second and third floors. Weinstein expects the building to continue as a medical facility. “We would love to find another pharmacy … but with the chains taking over, that is very unlikely,” said Weinstein. Renovations on the ground-level space are scheduled to start in October.
Berkowitz dated the establishment of Cooperman’s Pharmacy back to 1922, but the store’s original location remains in question. The store that preceded the business that recently closed was located down the street – at 7141 Germantown Ave. – in part of a building that also housed the Sedgwick Theater, now a local historic landmark.
But the Sedgwick was erected in 1928, and as a result, the site of the first Cooperman’s Pharmacy, from the years 1922 to 1928, remains a mystery. The store was relocated to its current and final location in or around 1950. (A second Cooperman’s Pharmacy was established for a time in at 220 Haverford Ave. in Narberth, which had also been a pharmacy for nearly 100 years until the last independently owned pharmacy there closed this past January, coincidentally.)
Berkowitz and his wife bought the Mt. Airy business from Mr. Cooperman in 1973 after serving a brief “apprenticeship” in the store, Berkowitz said. In those days, Cooperman’s Pharmacy was a traditional apothecary that sold comparatively few non-drugstore items such as soaps, shampoos and other beauty aids, he said. However, it did sell such items as candy and cigarettes, as any number of Mr. Cooperman’s nine grandchildren – including the author of this story – who helped stock the shelves in the 1960s and 1970s, can attest.
“He actually interviewed my wife and myself,” Berkowitz recalled. “He wanted somebody to work there with the intention of buying. He wanted to make sure that the people he sold it to or took it over were the right people.”
He said Mr. Cooperman, who had been a pharmacist since 1917, “had a little trouble with the transition … I remember him saying to one of the guys there, one of his employees, ‘Do you think this guy knows what he’s doing?’ Well, we were there 42 years, [and] we maintained the business, and your grandfather would have been proud. He ran a very ethical business, and we did the same thing. Other than your grandfather Dan Cooperman, we were the only owners of that store for almost 100 years. That’s quite a legacy, I think.”