CHICAGO - It’s the end of an era in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, as one of the city’s last independently owned pharmacies is shutting its doors at the end of the month.
For more than a century, Deitch Pharmacy has been filling prescriptions for Chicagoans and giving trusted advice.
But in the end, the little business couldn’t survive big healthcare.
"After 41 years, I’m going to fully retire," said 66-year-old Ozzie Feliciano. He bought the business from the founding family in 2001.
"Unfortunately, it’s going to have to close," said Feliciano. "Yes, shutting down completely."
Deitch Pharmacy has stood at the corner of Wood St. and Chicago Ave. since 1912, filling prescriptions for generations of West Town residents. At one time, the pharmacy even had its own medical clinic attached to the building.
But Feliciano says mom and pop pharmacies like his have been squeezed out by the chains, and big Pharma and insurance companies.
When Feliciano tried to sell the business, he couldn’t find a buyer.
"Independent pharmacies, there’s just no way," said Feliciano. "Politically and economically (it’s impossible) to run a business, unless you’re connected to the big chains."
The news is a bitter pill for longtime customers, like Marisela Salgado.
"I think it’s so heartbreaking," Salgado said as she picked up a prescription Tuesday afternoon. "I grew up here. I came here since I was a newborn. I bring my daughter here, so they’re like family to us."
Marta Kozyckyj has worked as a pharmacist for Feliciano for a number of years.
"It’s sad because it’s an end of an era. My father was a physician, so I know what it means to take care of generations of families."
Feliciano says he’s helping his customers transfer their prescriptions to the bigger pharmacies. But he worries they won’t get what he’s able to provide, which is the time to build real relationships. "It’s a huge loss," said Feliciano. "Someone that they trust. Someone they came to for their health care questions, advice."
He says the gentrification of West Town isn’t helping either, as younger residents are more likely to order their meds online.
But after 41 years as a pharmacist in a century-old business, Feliciano agrees it’s been a good run.
"Of course (I’ll miss it). It’s part of me," Feliciano said.