Economy Drug has deep roots in community

Andy Bath is the head pharmacist at Economy Drug. (Garrett Estrada photo)

Andy Bath is the head pharmacist at Economy Drug. (Garrett Estrada photo)

Ely Times Staff Writer

Few stores offer the variety of products that Economy Drug on Aultman street does.
“It’s not very common, that’s for sure,” said Andy Bath, the store’s head pharmacist. “It’s a pharmacy with an old fashioned soda fountain and a toy store for a bottom floor.”

Bath grew up with Economy Drug in his family. His grandfather, Dale Miller, originally acquired the store with several other pharmacists after World War II in 1946. Bath worked off and on at the family business, first as a soda jerk in high school and eventually as a pharmacy technician.

He split his time between work and school, attending college over summer and returning to work under his grandfather as a pharmacy technician in the winter. Though he was taking classes that would eventually lead to him running the pharmacy, Bath said he learned just as much from his grandfather’s less textbook methods.

“Pharmacy has changed so much,” Bath said. “He just had a completely different perspective on it. His understanding of old, apothecary stuff was pretty amazing and I had the chance to experience that.

“That is something I will cherish forever.”

But the store that Bath grew up with would have never lasted without the support of the Ely community said Bath’s mother, Margret. As the store’s current owner, Margret Bath remembers a time that almost wiped away everything.

“The business burned to the ground in 1956,” she said.  “It was on Father’s Day. You’ve never seen such outpouring of community support, it was just phenomenal.”

Margret Bath recalls members of the community helping her father salvage anything that was usable from the burned down store, and she said the pharmacy was up and running in a little building across the street just four hours later. It would take a year before the real store was fully rebuilt.

Since then, the Economy Drug has seen several expansions and renovations. When a basement was introduced to the store during a remodel in 1991, Andy Bath said his mother tried to find something the community was lacking to fill the space.

“My mom, being community orientated, noticed that this community didn’t have a toy store or any place for a kid to go or for a parent to purchase something for their kids,” Andy Bath said. “So in an effort to diversify the Economy Drug, we introduced the toy store. It’s always been her little baby.”

Now the store is less than two months away from debuting its latest remodel, and the Baths hope the newest additions to the store will once again offer something that the community needs.

“The goal of this remodel job was to make it more user friendly for our patients and our customers so that we can optimize things,” Andy Bath said.
As part of that optimization, Bath said Economy Drug will introduce a counseling room and a compounding room, where the pharmacists can synthesize highly specific medications for patients that wouldn’t otherwise be available.

According to Margret Bath, if all goes according to plan, the new remodel will hold its grand opening sometime in April.

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  1. Mary Schneider says:

    Economy Drug has always been a wonderful store to shop in.. I always enjoyed the very knowledgeable clerks and pharmacists, all of whom were most helpful and caring. If I ever have the good fortune of returning to Ely, I will certainly stop in if only to say “hi” to everyone. (….and to think I once worked for the competition at Ely Drug some 55 years ago!)

  2. Charles Basso says:

    Way to go Margaret and Andy. I worked at the Union station across the street and when the fire happened you moved into the little building behind the station. As I worked night shifts while going to high school, it was very convenient for me to run next door and grab a milk shake. I remember that Bobbie Loddy Stever was working there at the time.

  3. Diane MacMillan says:

    Congratulations Margaret on the expansion and remodel! You have always run a great business with lots of love and compassion for your customers which is indeed hard to come by anymore. I wish you and your family the very best. Thank you for always being such a great help to us and to the community!

    Steve & Diane MacMillan

  4. Theresa M Watson says:

    The best thing I remember about the Economy Drug Store were the tuna fish sandwiches on Wonder Bread. A little bit of iceberg lettuce and the tuna mixed with a bit of mayonnaise made for one terrific sandwich. The soda fountain is wonderful as well. When I visit Ely, having grown up in McGill, I must have one of those wonderful sandwiches. There is no other sandwich that compares to that tuna sandwich. Cheers for the tuna sandwich!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Adrienne Richardson says:

    Congratulations Margaret and Andy.

    You will always be known as “Walgreen’s” to me. There never was a better tuna sandwich or Iron Port. The success of your store is a tribute to Mr. Miller. Best wishes on the grand opening of your remodel.

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