By Bill Lauterbach
Contrary to popular belief, the area Weatherwax drug store chain did not start with a single Weatherwax owner. In fact, at one time, Weatherwax Drugs was comprised of two brotherly owners, with numerous stores in separate locations in the area.
Starting in the 1940’s, Les Weatherwax had two Jackson stores and started up the Weatherwax store in Brooklyn. Brother Al owned the Albion, Spring Arbor and Vandercook Lake stores.
Through a sequence of family acquisitions over the decades, the current owner of Brooklyn’s Weatherwax Family Pharmacy is Jim Weatherwax. However, the operations at the Brooklyn store are managed by first cousin, Steve Weatherwax, with assistance from Steve’s wife, Vickie. Steve is also the store’s head pharmacist. In addition, daughter Tracey is on duty at the Brooklyn store.
Getting Steve and Vickie to talk about their contributions to the community and to the county is tough, since they are modest individuals.
At first they made a passing mention about some Christmas and 4th of July participations, when suddenly, one particular event comes simultaneously to their collective memories, and they begin to discuss it with a gleam in their eyes: the “Coats for Kids” clothing drive. Vickie says that their collection efforts were a huge success. “We went to the AWARE Center to drop off a bunch of coats and they finally had to stop us since we had so many. But they (AWARE) referred us to the Jackson Interfaith Shelter where we were able to give away the rest.” They also gave away hundreds at the Brooklyn Food pantry.
So what is Weatherwax Family Pharmacy of Brooklyn’s specialty and strength? “The name speaks for itself,” Steve said. “Everybody knows us. The families all know us. We are all family.” Steve also states that there was once a time when they would get up in the middle of the night to take care of an emergency prescription fill. “That doesn’t happen much anymore, with the new 24/7 pharmacies that are around today. But once in a while we still get a call.”
This dedication and service to their customers and to the community is just a couple of the many reasons The Brooklyn – Irish Hills Chamber of Commerce bestowed the People’s Choice Award to Brooklyn’s Weatherwax Family Pharmacy in 2002 and Business of the Year honors in 2012.
Their reminiscing suddenly took a fun and unique twist when discussing the old products and remedies our parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents have used, and have been passed down through the generations. It was like a visit to grandma’s house, as they brought in some of the older, classic remedies. Steve mentioned that “The bigger store chains don’t carry this stuff, so it’s starting to get a little harder to purchase these items from wholesalers. But we still carry them.”
So what can you get at the store?
If you are doing an oil change on your pick-up truck, clean up quick and easy with a bar of “Old Tar Soap.”
Do your hands get rough and cracked in the winter? Bag Balm was first used to sooth dairy cow utters. However, women soon discovered, and the word quickly spread, that Bag Balm also alleviated the pain and discomfort of their own dry and chapped skin.
For those suffering from an ear ache, many folks still use Sweet Oil as their remedy of choice.
From its invention in 1861 by French chemist, Charles Lauth, Gentian Violet is still finding new customers and uses in the 21st century as an antibacterial and antifungal treatment.
Many of you had your first shave with dad or grandpa using “William’s Mug Shaving Soap – A Lasting Lather Since 1840.”
Finally, who can forget the wonderful benefits of Castor Oil? (Perhaps that is worded incorrectly. Who would rather forget about Castor Oil?)
However, products from yesteryear are not the mainstay of the Brooklyn Weatherwax. They are a full-service pharmacy, ready to fill prescription needs at a moment’s notice. Furthermore, they carry just about everything needed for a last minute gift or garment.
Weatherwax has a large selection of women’s wear, along with active wear and collectables for Michigan and Michigan State fans. Also, toys for the kids, beautiful jewelry, and even a few snacks thrown in for good measure.
It has been an adventure for Steve Weatherwax, who graduated with a five year pharmaceutical degree from Ole Miss before moving back to Jackson County. Steve is looking forward to reducing his relevance at the store, so he can begin making plans to enjoy retirement. But there are further generations of the Weatherwax ancestry, standing by and ready to carry on with the traditions of this family friendly, family run business.
Stop by Weatherwax Family Pharmacy in downtown Brooklyn. They are located at 105 N. Main with parking in front and plenty of additional parking in the rear of the store. Their hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and they are closed on Sunday. Phone (517) 592-8505. And be sure to “Like” them on Facebook!