Whitley Pharmacy helps contribute to downtown charm
Pharmacist: 'It's one of the oldest drug stores in the nation'
With the Cassville Main Street Association's goal of modernizing the downtown area to draw more visitors, yet still maintain the town's historic charm, Whitley Pharmacy is doing its part to contribute to that vision.
According to Pharmacist Logan Whitley, son of owner Blake Whitley, several renovations have been made in the last several years, including a remodel of the interior, which opened the pharmacy and soda fountain area with an adjoining giftware section, allowing customers to drop into the pharmacy, grab a shake or float, find a gift, or enjoy a homecooked meal, all in one place.
The soda fountain was updated last year, with a larger kitchen, new bar, stools and more seating, yet still captures the same, old-fashioned charm of a traditional soda fountain. And with its home-cooked lunch specials each day, it remains a popular spot to grab a good meal, and hangout for local youth to get a hand-stirred soda or float after school.
"We've done a lot over the last few years, between opening up the buildings next to us, remodeling them, introducing the archways and the soda fountains," Whitley said.
During their work, an old, historic business sign from a previous pharmacy-related business was discovered on a brick wall. Customers can see it behind the registers of the giftware section.
According to Whitley, the building has been home to several pharmacy-related companies for over a 100-plus year time span.
"There's been a pharmacy or drug store of some kind here for over 100 years," Whitley said. "It's one of the oldest continuously-run drug stores in the nation. That's something we're pretty proud of, so we're always looking for a way to give it the old-fashioned feel and bring back the old days of when every drug store had a soda fountain."
Whitley said the opportunity to visit an old-time soda fountain draws visitors to the square.
"It brings in a lot of people, and even some tourism," he said. "We had a couple in from New York this week. They usually come in for the soda fountain or gift shop."
Being on the town's square also has long-standing appeal, Whitley said.
"It's neat to have a town that still has a square and to be able to still have a store on the square," he said. "I think [having a square] that's something that's diminishing in towns. My dad, Blake Whitley, bought the building about 30 years ago, and before that it was Taggart's Medicine shop. He owned it for quite a few years, and before that it was Wooten's Drug."
A plaque dedicated to the work local contractor Bud Lowe completed on the buildings, including its exterior within the last six months, is displayed in the cash wrap area of the giftware section.
"Bud [and his crew] have done a lot of work in here trying to make it look nice," Whitley said. "He updated the front of the buildings next to us to make them match and look like one business, which made them look more aesthetically pleasing and unified. We also fixed some roof problems. We have a plaque memorializing their hard work in the cash register area."
Carolyn Bishop, Cassville Main Street Association president, has been pleased with the updates.
"Whitley changed their store front, which made it more cohesive-looking, and now they're making improvements to their roof line," she said.
City Administrator Steve Walensky also praised the business, along with others that have helped make improvements to the downtown area.
"Anytime you can see a facelift in our downtown segment, it's wonderful for our community, he said. "There have been several. If you look back on the last 10 years, a lot of people in our downtown area have put a lot of energy and effort into remodeling. I give credit to Ellis Cupps and Cole for work on their facility, and to the Bishops for the work they have done with the State Farm building and section all the way to Copy Cat. She also led the project for the street lighting downtown and getting the sidewalks ADA compliant — that was another great improvement for our community. And Whitley has done a spectacular job in his area."
Walensky also commented on the most recent owner to remodel, Attorney Blake Fields.
"I think Blake is another fine example of what you can do when you invest in your downtown," he said. "It's just great that every year, we see a new improvement in our community. It really brings the beauty back to Cassville."
"I think downtown revitalization is wonderful as long as you're bringing out the qualities we like in Cassville and renewing the old downtown feel," Whitley said. "I'd hate to see it completely changed. Revitalization is good for every business and the whole town. When cities rebuild and keep their historic nature and bring that center focus, it makes everything look the way it has in the past. It gives you something to be proud of.
"I think everyone appreciates it when you can have a beautiful downtown area, and Cassville's been a town for 150-plus years. So to be able to keep that town square feel, we enjoy being a part of it. My dad is a fantastic business owner and has done an awesome job with the store for the last 30 years. We don't work for a chain; we're on our own, and that is something that is getting harder for people to do, so we're blessed to be able to succeed at it."