Saturday, April 26, 2014

Bygone Business: Crissman's Drug Store

An early view of Crissman's Drug Store. Owner and pharmacist Lewis Crissman is show at right. (Courtesy of John Crissman)
One of the best-remembered businesses on Rochester's Main Street during the twentieth century was Crissman's Drug Store.  Lewis C. Crissman, a 1910 graduate of Ferris Institute (now Ferris State University), established the drug store that carried his name in 1913, when he bought out Luel H. Smith's Central Drug Store.The Smith store was located at 329 S. Main, just south of where the Chase Bank stands in 2014.

Around 1915, Crissman moved his pharmacy across the street to 438 S. Main, in what was then known as the J. W. Smith block, owned by the proprietor of the St. James Hotel. Lewis's brother, Clayton, was his partner in the early years, and for a time the store carried the name of Crissman Brothers.  L. C. and Clayton Crissman dissolved their partnership in 1936 when Clayton decided to concentrate his efforts on his fruit farm business.  When Lewis Crissman decided to retire from the pharmacy he passed the baton to the next generation, son J. Kenneth Crissman, who like his father, had earned a pharmacy degree from Ferris.

The Crissman brothers remodeled their store in 1929 and installed a soda fountain that became a clearinghouse of sorts for community news.  What the parlor of the St. James Hotel across the street had been to the town during the nineteenth century, Crissman's soda fountain was during the mid-twentieth century. A social switchboard in Rochester's game of telephone, the counter allowed for the rapid dissemination of local news and gossip. During World War II, servicemen coming home on leave found that a stop at Crissman's soda fountain was the fastest way to catch up on the latest events on the homefront as well as word of comrades in arms serving in far-flung places.

Crissman's came to an end in October 1966 when the business was sold and became the Pinkerton Pharmacy, bringing a close to  a run of more than half a century on Rochester's Main Street.

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