When Brooklyn Farmacy opened its doors in the Spring of 2010, it was clear that we hadn't opened a new place, we had opened an old place.
Almost a century after the fountain's glory days, it appeared that people were still thirsty for those countertop classics- the sundae, the soda and the ice cream float— but people stop into the Farmacy for more than an afternoon treat. They visit because their grandfather owned a pharmacy, or their uncle was a ‘soda jerk’ or their parents first kiss was over a shared malt. They recognize our counter as a place where socializing is done in real time. They recognize a good tradition when they see one.
Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain is housed in a 1920s apothecary store in Brooklyn, New York. Once a thriving neighborhood pharmacy, the corner storefront had shut down for more than thirteen years.
While externally 513 Henry was an eyesore, the interior was frozen in time, filled from top to bottom with drugstore ephemera and original architectural detail. Amidst the dust and decades of clutter, it was clear as day that this old pharmacy needed to be revived —we believed, as a modern day soda fountain.
There was no shortage of passion for this idea: before even signing a lease, we had purchased nine red twirling stools, had drawn up menus and layouts, and even bought a Bastian Blessing soda fountain on Ebay. But quickly enough, we understood that just the structural repair on the old pharmacy's building would cost more than a little soda fountain could afford to bear. We'd spent months talking up the neighborhood about the little soda fountain revival, but it seemed the project was pretty much over before it began.
But it wasn't. On a spring morning just two days after the last depressing estimate was presented to us, a car pulled up outside. In it was a lady asking for directions, who was, unknown to us, the casting director for the Discovery Channel's reality TV show, Construction Intervention. It was her day off. The series was actively searching for a finale subject to season one.
That’s right. After asking a few questions that had little to do with the direction she was originally headed, she stepped into our store and changed the course of soda fountain history. Our project was quickly vetted, and in just under five days, a production crew of sixty undertook the restoration and renovation of the old pharmacy, each day and each repair taped for television. The other episodes in the series, nine of them, were stories like ours: New York projects with good ideas, big hearts—and unexpected construction costs.
The pharmacy was the only 'restoration' project of the Discovery series, and the majority of the work crew, from electricians to the woodworkers, were born and raised in Brooklyn. Much of the work was down and dirty structural. We were sent away for the duration of the restoration (T.V. drama). Rumor has it the Construction Intervention crew was not above getting misty eyed about restoring original tin ceilings and penny tile floors—or about recreating a soda fountain in Brooklyn.
This was, everyone agreed, a very, very special project.
On May 6, 2010, thanks to the soda fountain angels, Longo's Pharmacy at 513 Henry came back to life as Brooklyn Farmacy — a little soda fountain whose time had come. We hope you stop by for a visit, and feel the magic!