Howes, a downtown fixture for 104 years, cuts ribbon for grand reopening
Howes Drug and Medical has been handling the medical needs of Milford residents for 104 years, and this week the new pharmacy owner gathered customers and city officials together to celebrate that long pharmacy history and to unveil a recently completed store redesign.
Raymond Pantalena Jr. bought the downtown Milford pharmacy at 78 Broad Street last year from former owner Andy Allegretti, who still works as a full-time pharmacist at Howes. Frank Cocchiaro, who owned the pharmacy with Allegretti, retired.
Before Allegretti and Cocchiaro bought the downtown drug store, it was run by Ernest Judson, a long time Milford pharmacist and member of the Board of Health. “Ernie still pops in all the time and he’s a wealth of wisdom,” Pantalena said.
Before that Yale Laites owned Howes for many years. And before him was John T. Howes, for whom the pharmacy is named.
The storefront wasn’t always where it is now at 78 Broad Street, but it was never far away. It was located earlier on Broad Street next to what is now the Colony Grill, in a building that has since burned down.
Judson started working at Howes as a soda jerk when he was a sophomore in high school, meaning he made ice cream sodas and other refreshments at the store’s 10-stool soda fountain. He found he liked the atmosphere so much that he decided to go to school to be a pharmacist.
The current store building was built in the 1950s, and it had a soda fountain too — a 17-stool soda fountain that served salads and sandwiches.
The pharmacy has changed over the years, losing the old-time soda fountain, but residents say it still has that old-time charm. A local blogger praised the customer service at Howes and the throwback to older times. “First off, I love the storefront,” the blogger wrote. “It is very old fashioned looking, just like from the 1950s or 60s.”
Pantalena lives in Madison, but he is so enamored with Milford now that he’s been running Howes he’s thinking about moving here.
He bought Howes because he was looking for “that small town community interaction.”
“I wanted to get back into an independent, small town pharmacy where I can meet and interact with people,” Pantalena said.
In early 2015, Howes Drug & Medical was completely remodeled to update the pharmacy and use the space more efficiently, reads a press release announcing this week’s ribbon cutting ceremony at the store. The store features a larger, walk-in full service pharmacy area, pharmacy consultation desks, and a home medical equipment and surgical supplies showroom. Prescriptions can be filled while customers shop or delivered to their home at no extra charge. An expanded selection of gift items and chocolates has also been added.
“We wanted to continue to foster the great relationship with the local community that Howes Drug & Medical has enjoyed for so long,” said Pantalena. “We are an independent and locally-owned Health-Mart pharmacy offering the kind of personal service, unexpected conveniences, and trusted advice you can count on from an independent pharmacy.”
Howes is the last independent pharmacy in Milford, Judson said. Founded in 1911, Howes Drug & Medical is one of the oldest pharmacies in Connecticut.
Pantalena led the full remodel of the store, updating the look and organizing the area in a way so the pharmacists and staff could easily interact with customers.
Pantalena said there weren’t a lot of redesign options because the 2,500 square feet of space is narrow, presenting somewhat limited options. But he likes that the space makes the pharmacy more “intimate” than bigger pharmacies.
Mayor Ben Blake and local business representatives were on hand to help celebrate the newly remodeled pharmacy.
Blake pointed out that Howes has been a fixture downtown for a long time. He remembers when the pharmacy had a popcorn machine years ago — Judson said when he bought the place in 1988 that is the only thing the former owner wouldn’t sell him.