NEW FRANKLIN One of New Franklin’s iconic, longstanding businesses has shut its doors after 62 years.
Cope Pharmacy, which opened in 1956 on West Nimisila Road at the Manchester Road intersection, in the center of what was then known as Manchester, closed at the end of business on Feb. 27, according to owner Gretchen Birch.
Birch, the daughter of the late Don Cope, Cope’s founder, said Feb. that the pharmacy fell victim to the dramatically changing landscape of the prescription industry, which has been the core of Cope’s business for decades.
"We’ve lost a lot of our (prescription) customer base to mail-order business and Fuel Perks," she said. "We’ve seen this coming for about the last 15 years. We tried everything in our power to stop it, but we were unable to do so. We knew this day would come. My dad died two years ago, and he knew it was coming, too."
Still, this was not an easy decision for Birch, who grew up in the pharmacy, has worked there for 20 years and inherited the ownership with her father’s passing.
"I don’t want to talk about it because I might cry. This is very, very difficult. Other than burying my dad, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done," she said, her voice trailing off.
Birch isn’t the only sorrowful one. Brian Benton has been running the business next door to Cope’s, Flowers by Dick and Son, since his father, Dick, passed away in 1990. The flower shop opened two years before Cope’s did, in 1954. The closing has hit him hard, too
"I’m not going to kid you. This is very, very tough for me," Benton, now 57, said. "The Cope family and the Benton family have worked hand in hand for three generations. I’ve been going to that place (Cope’s) almost since I was born. I spent a lot of time in there.
"I can remember when I was attending Nimisila (Elementary School, now closed and located about 200 hundred yards north of Cope’s) and our teacher would send several of us students over to Cope’s to buy sheets of different-colored stars – green, gold, red and blue – that teachers gave to kids when they performed well in class. We’d have to walk through the woods to get there.
"Just saying that made me realize how long ago that was. Can you imagine a teacher doing that now, having third- or fourth-graders go over to the drug store to get something for her? That would never happen. But that’s what Cope’s was in this community."
Indeed, Cope’s once was a destination for much, much more than just prescription drugs.
"You went there to get all kinds of school supplies – pens and pencils, notebooks, filler paper, everything," Benton said. "You bought your watch there. You bought magazines there, and all kinds of candy. It was a go-to-place for greeting cards."
In addition, Cope’s was busy selling men’s cologne and women’s perfume, along with razors, shaving cream, deodorant, hair spray, foot-care products, cold and flu medicine, bandages.
You name it in terms of what drug stores sold at one time, and Cope’s had it. It was a one-stop shop, growing and growing as Manchester grew and grew from a small farming area to a sizeable bedroom community in the 1950s, ‘60s and ’70s when people fled the big cities to build new homes on a lot of land in suburbia.
But perhaps the best part of Cope’s was its soda fountain, which has remained until the end. Cope’s and an identical business, Saywell’s Drug Store in downtown Hudson, were the only places left in Summit County offering fountain service, and when Saywell’s closed in October 2005, Cope’s was the last soda fountain standing in what used to be a mainstay in every drug store everywhere.
"I’ll tell you, Cope’s had the best hot-fudge sundaes around," Benton said.
Birch said the Cope family, which owns what has become Cope Plaza, made up of several other small businesses, will try to rent out the space that was home to the pharmacy. In the meantime, though, it will remain vacant.
She added that rumors that Rite Aid, the third-largest drug store chain in the U.S., will open a location there are just that.
"There’s nothing to that," she said. "We are located in the middle of two Rite Aid stores (in Green and Canal Fulton) that are close to Manchester. We did sell our prescription customer list to Rite Aid."
One other thing needs to be determined, and that is what to do with a Cope’s sign that, for years, stood at the intersection of West Nimisila Road and Main Street alerting motorists that the pharmacy was just a couple miles away.
"When that sign was removed a couple years ago, I took it," Benton said. "I was going to hang it inside the flower shop, but it won’t work. I’ve got it setting now in our big garage out back. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it now."
Perhaps keep it as a memento of a great era for six decades in the New Franklin/Manchester community?