Tellis Pharmacy to close after 60 years
Sixty years ago, Vera Tellis and her brother, Tony, graduated from pharmacy school at the same time and opened a drugstore on Lower King Street.
The area thrived with shops on both sides of the one-way thoroughfare between Queen and Broad streets. Residents lived above the stores.
Over time, though, the streetscape changed. An office building rose next door toward Queen Street. A parking garage went up across the street.
“The street was robbed of its soul during that period,” said John Critikos, son of Alice Tellis Critikos, who owns the 125 King St. landmark with her sister, Vera.
Business began to wane, but the two sisters, who took over the business after their brother died in 1983, kept the pharmacy alive because they wanted to provide a service to the residents in the area and keep the drugstore’s tradition around for as long as possible.
On Saturday, that homespun tradition in a pharmacy with hardwood floors and personal service will end.
Tellis Pharmacy will close for good.
Vera Tellis, who took over as pharmacist in 1988, after retiring from her pharmacy job at Medical University Hospital, is now 80. She closed the drugstore part of the business last fall.
“It’s about time,” she said of the decision to close.
What remains inside the two-story wooden building with rented-out office space on the second floor are over-the-counter remedies, toiletries, greeting cards and other items.
It all will go on sale before they close the doors Saturday, but there is no certain percentage off.
What doesn’t sell, Alice Tellis Critikos will like to donate to charity.
The apothecary items, such as old glass jars used by doctors and hospitals long ago, will stay with the family, she said.
Built in 1887, one year after the great earthquake that struck Charleston, the building was a metalworks store. In the 1920s it became Schwettmann’s Pharmacy.
The sisters’ father, James Anthony Tellis, bought the building in 1946. Three years later it became Ye Olde Fountain, a soda shop on Lower King Street where Vera first worked.
In 1952, Vera and her brother, Tony, with pharmacy degrees fresh in hand, opened the drug- store. The fountain remained on the right side until the 1960s, when it was dismantled to make way for more floor space.
John Critikos, Alice’s son, and now a cardiologist in Hendersonville, N.C., remembers competing with his siblings as a child to see who would get to spend the day at the pharmacy, where they would jump on their balloon-tired bikes and deliver prescriptions in the neighborhood.
“The whole street was filled with buildings like this,” he said.
There was a typewriter shop, bookstore, laundry, shoe-repair business and a grocery store, just to name a few on the street now anchored by Berlin’s men’s and women’s clothing stores, the sisters remembered.
“It was packed with people,” Vera Tellis said.
When the city did away with overhanging storefront signs, Tellis Pharmacy moved it to the side of the building for awhile before having it grandfathered in and restored to the front of the store.
The neon sign remains in place and is sometimes lit up until late at night, except for when it is taken down for approaching hurricanes and stored away for safety.
“It has been a pleasure to be around here, but after they built that building beside us and decided to build the garage across the street, we lost a lot of business,” said Alice Tellis Critikos, pointing out that very few customers had come into the shop on Wednesday.
“We were here to serve the public, and that’s what we did,” she said. “We held on as long as we could.”
They plan to keep the building and rent it out.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.