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Start Drug Centennial

WALSENBURG — Star Drug is observing its 100th anniversary at the same location, Seventh and Main streets in Walsenburg. The address is 628 Main. The pharmacy was started by brothers Ed and Andy Merritt in early September 1914 at the site of Ed’s 10-year-old business, the Merritt and Muir, later Merritt and Marquis, Saloon. It was Walsenburg’s first corner drug and for many years featured a soda fountain. The building also housed the Western Union office, entered from Seventh Street. The first prescription filled was written by Dr. Paul Mathews on Sept. 10, 1914 and cost 10 cents. At the time, there were three other thriving drug stores in the city – City Pharmacy, owned by Glen Mathews, which was the “Rexall” outlet since 1910,Wycoff Fawks Drug Company and Huerfano Drug. The Merritt family came to Huerfano County in 1888, drawn by the coal mines. It was a mining family whose patriarch had died on the job and two brothers died together in a mining accident. Of the survivors, Ed and Andy became merchants and a third brother, William A., became a doctor who practiced in Walsenburg for more than 40 years. Dr. A.S. Abdun-Nur, a native of Syria and graduate of medical school, arrived in Walsenburg in June 1911 when there were eight other doctors in town. He went into partnership with Dr. T.F. Tannus, from Lebanon, who had an office in the “new” Roof and Dick building at Main and Sixth streets where he specialized in eye, ear and nose treatment. Abdun-Nur treated women’s ailments. Abdun-Nur was twice appointed county physician. When the Merritt brothers turned their attention back to sheep raising, Adbun-Nur leased the drugstore building in 1916. The following April he purchased the stock and goodwill of the drugstore and incorporated the business as Star Drug, organizing it as a “profit sharing” partnership between himself and his employees. Dr. Abdun-Nur added two rooms to the rear of the building for his medical offices, despite the fact he did not own the building. In May, 1919, Abdun-Nur sold Star Drug to the Drs. Lamme of La Veta and moved to Nevada. Abdun-Nur may have lost his enthusiasm for Walsenburg after being robbed of $1,200 in June 1918 when the store’s safe was dynamited. Dr. S. Julian Lamme had been practicing medicine in La Veta since his graduation from medical school in 1904. He was joined by his brother Dr. J.M. Lamme in 1911. They had been operating a hospital there for several years before relocating to Walsenburg. The Drs. Lamme again enlarged the building by adding five more rooms that extended the premises from Main Street back to the alley. While the Lammes treated patients in the back rooms, Lou Gritz was managing the drugstore in the front. The building stayed in the Merritt family while the drugstore passed through several lessees before Robert Kelley bought it March 1, 1944. He had gone to work there in May 1941. Previously he had worked in Cripple Creek and Monte Vista. The Kelley family owned and operated the store for 42 years, though as renters until 1977 when Ed’s widow finally sold the property. Her husband had cautioned her to never sell it, but she did. She died two years later. Bob Kelley made a number of changes. He was still in competition with two other drugstores. To the exterior of the premises he devised a new entrance, moving the front door from the center of the building facing Main Street. This area had formerly been a lunch counter and soda fountain. He replaced this with a cosmetic department after moving the counter and fountain. The soda parlor ceased making its own ice cream. It advertised Indian curios, Western souvenirs and tourist information. In 1948, Kelley replaced the old fountain with a modern one and otherwise remodeled the interior. Star Drug had its grand reopening July 31, 1948. At the time, he had six employees, who were Pharmacist Dick Federico, Charles Elliott, Ida Boscia, Angie Zorman, Lorraine Colentoni and Rose Marie Ritz. In 1957, he had the six booths near the soda fountain removed to make way for more merchandise. Then he removed the soda fountain altogether. Bob Kelley died of a heart attack in June 1975. He was greatly missed by the community. He had been involved with the Chamber of Commerce, Masonic Lodge, Elks, Walsenburg Club and had served on the school board. He left three children, Gordon, William E., and Beatrice Schmidt. Gordon and Bill took over the drugstore. That November, the pharmacy filled its 300,000th prescription. The pharmacist on duty was Bill Kelley. Gordon and his wife, the former Patricia Louise Corsentino, again remodeled the façade and moved the entrance to the southwest corner. The business leaped into the 20th century in 1982 with the addition of computerized records for the pharmacy. It was one of Walsenburg’s first businesses to enter the computer age. Gordon and Patty opened the Other Side gift shop in the building just north of their own in 1983. It had housed a barbershop for many decades. The new shop, which included a reincarnation of the old Star Drug ice cream fountain, had its grand opening in November. Soon after Gordon opened his photography studio in the next building north. These were located at 626 and 624 Main. The Kelleys sold Star Drug to Tom Bratz and Dick Federico in April 1986, but kept their gift shop and photo gallery next door. The drugstore building is still in the family, after 70 years.

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