Royer Pharmacy is one of the oldest continuously operating independent pharmacies in the United States. During its more than 137 years, it has been operated by only 2 primary families.
Royer Pharmacy traces the beginning of its history to 1879 in Ephrata Pennsylvania when young pharmacist George S. Royer bought the business from a local pharmacist named Konigmacher. Mr. Royer had worked for Konigmacher and learned the pharmacy trade and skills from him.
Mr. Royer renamed the business ‘Royer’s Pharmacy’ and operated it for 55 years until his death in 1932. Records indicate the store was originally located on the square at 2 E. Main St. Ephrata, Pa. At some time, the store was moved next door to the first floor of a large house at 8 East Main St., Ephrata, right next to the former Reading Railroad tracks. It is unknown when or why this move occurred. The old railroad station still exists and today houses the Ephrata Area Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Ephrata, Inc.
Click pictures to enlarge
George Royer, founder of Royer Pharmacy in its 8 E. Main St. location.
A Colgate Dental Cream display at the 8 E. Main St. store.
A Dr. West's display at the 8 E. Main St. store.
A Gem Razor display at the 8 E. Main St. store. Note the wind up clock in the window; patron's were asked to guess when it would stop running - the closest guess won a prize.
A hand painted post card of the Royer Building shortly after its completion.
Long time staff pharmacist Harry Knight at a cigar display in the current 2 E. Main St. store.
Royer Pharmacy shortly after moving into the current 2 E. Main St. store. Note the snack bar. The pharmacy is at the rear.
The side door (covered over in the 1972 remodeling). Note the classic Art Moderne style.
The Royer Building as it appeared during Royer Pharmacy's 75th Anniversary in 1954.
The front display window at the 'new' location promoting Royer Pharmacy's 75th Anniversay. The picture in the window is of George Royer.
An Ephrata Review ad recognizing Bill Sherman for 50 years of service to the community.
Royer Pharmacy after the 1972 remodeling. At the time, Walgreen was a source of over the counter medicines.
Matches were are a common ‘free courtesy handout’ before the advent of lighters and anti-smoking campaigns as they provided a needed service along with advertising. Here are 2 different Royer Pharmacy match book covers. Note the progression of phone numbers as discussed above.
The classic Art Moderne style is evident in the marquee sign.
Fair Trade Notice for Tex Tooth Brush effective 4-1-1939. Fair Trade price setting was eliminated in 1975 with the Consumer Goods Pricing Act.
Invoice from G. S. Royer, Dr., Wholesale and Retail Druggist, dated 1-22-14.
Ephrata National Bank check order signed by George S. Royer on May 25, 1881. This was the year that Ephrata National Bank was founded. The bank is still serving the community today, just like Royer Pharmacy. Note the check number 11. $112.32 converts to at least $2,500 in today’s dollars. Information on the check’s recipient remains a mystery.
Upon George Royer's death, his daughter, Irene Weidman, oversaw the operation of the business. She was not a pharmacist but hired John B. Weidman, a relative of her husband, to manage the business. By 1939 she had completed the construction of the Royer Building, named in honor of her father. Mrs. Weidman was the wife of Ephrata National Bank president Martin Weidman. This connection helped supply the funds (the equivalent of over $35,000,000 today) for the massive and extravagant (for the time-this was the late depression era) Royer Building. Upon the building’s completion, the pharmacy was moved to its present location on the downtown square at 2 East Main St.
Mrs. Weidman (who had no children) died in 1964. Her estate sold the business to the store manager, John Weidman, and the 2 staff pharmacists, William T. Sherman and Thomas E. Frontz. Bill Sherman started working for Royer Pharmacy in 1954 (having worked previously for Rea & Derick in Hazleton, Pa for 2 years) and Tom Frontz arrived in 1958 (having worked for Hinkle’s Pharmacy in Columbia, Pa). These three men incorporated the business in 1964. When Mr. Weidman died in 1972, Sherman and Frontz bought his share of the business. When Mr. Frontz retired in 1994, Bill Sherman purchased his shares and continued to operate the pharmacy along with his 4 children who grew up in the business. Children, Donald, Robert and Patricia became Registered Pharmacists and Pamela became the corporate treasurer.
Bill Sherman, while semi-retired, still maintains an active pharmacist license and remains actively involved in the business.
Royer Pharmacy expanded the store’s floor-plan significantly in 1972 with the addition of the space at 4-6 E. Main St.. formerly occupied by the Emory's Men's Store (Mr. Emory retired-see Fun Facts below) and continues today in the combined location.
The first satellite Royer Pharmacy was opened in 1974 at 216 N. Lime St., Lancaster. Pa. Expansion continued at a steady pace with 1170 Perkiomen Ave., Reading in 1976 (this store was sold in 1983), 508 Hershey Ave, Lancaster, Pa. in 1980, 113 S. 7th St., Akron, Pa. in 1983, 354 W. Main St, Leola, Pa. in 1984 (moved in 2004 into a new structure across the street at 335 W. Main St. Leola, Pa.) and Landisville in April 1988 (this store was sold in 1995). The Lime St. Lancaster store was moved to Rothsville in 1995 and was again moved to a new structure at 1021 Sharp Ave, Sharp Plaza, Ephrata, Pa in October 2002. The ‘downtown’ Ephrata store is still the corporate headquarters of the 5-store chain that employs over 90 people.
Today, the owners of Royer Pharmacy are: Donald A. Sherman, president; Robert O. Sherman, vice-president; Patricia J. Leaman, secretary; Pamela J. Groff, treasurer. William Sherman is the CEO.
These present owners and officers bring over 170 years of family pharmacy experience in running Royer Pharmacy to work every day! Add to this the 80+ childhood/school years of ‘helping Dad’ and you can see that Royer Pharmacy is very proud of its’ family heritage. Our staff of pharmacists adds an additional 150 years of retail experience. All combined, we offer over 400 years of retail pharmacy experience. We truly have a concept of family pharmacy strongly rooted in the community. The focus of all this experience is you, the patient and your family. Our passion is providing great patient service.
Royer Pharmacy specializes in serving the prescription and health care needs of the community. The tradition of friendly courteous service has always been the cornerstone of the business. It is the company's goal to continue the Royer Pharmacy tradition started in 1879 to be certain that every patient receives the best care possible. We like to say, “Our family helping your family for over 130 years”.
Fun Royer Pharmacy Facts
The company name Royer Pharmacy and Royer’s Pharmacy have caused confusion over the years. Early 20th century product labels and photographs of the old store show that the original store at 2 E. Main St. Ephrata, Pa was ‘Royer Pharmacy’. When the move was made to 8 E. Main St., the possessive ‘Royer’s Pharmacy’ was used. At some point the name changed back to Royer Pharmacy. It is believed that this occurred when the new Royer Building was built. Mr. Royer had already passed away and his daughter preserved the family name, Royer, in the building and the company name. The exact details for the variations remain unknown. Since 1939 the correct form has been Royer Pharmacy.
Construction on the Royer Building began in 1937 and it cost $238,000 to build. That is the equivalent of over $35,000,000 today.
The Royer Building was engineered and built to allow up to 5 stories. Only 3 were ever built. The building’s steel beams are massive. Contractors from New York City have commented that ‘those are what you build skyscrapers with’.
An interesting side note from the expansion into the Emory’s Men’s Store location: Mr. William H. Emory was a manager for Sears & Roebuck (which operated in the Royer Building from 1939 until the ‘new’ Sears and Roebuck store was built at the Lancaster Shopping Center in the 1950’s and at which time the Ephrata Sears store closed). The Ephrata Sears store occupied an L shaped space in the Royer Building that included 8 E. Main St. and 19 N. State St. Bill Emory declined the offer to manage the ‘new’ Lancaster Sears store and left to create his own men’s clothing store at 4-6 E Main St., Ephrata Pa.
It is interesting to note that the Royer Building was built around the 8 E. Main Street Royer Pharmacy location. The pharmacy continued to operate in the ‘old house’ during construction. The red brick wall of the old house still exists behind the plaster dividing Royer Pharmacy with the 8 E Main Street store.
Royer Pharmacy is not connected to Royer’s Flowers but …Bill Sherman is related to the founders of Royer’s Flowers. His aunt Hannah Royer (nee Hannah Sherman) founded Royer’s Flowers with her husband Lester Royer. Hanna started by raising flowers on her windowsill.
The Royer Building was built in the Art Moderne style, which was a late variation of the Art Deco design style. The emphasis is on curving forms and long horizontal lines. The sharp angles and excessive ornamentation of Art Deco is absent. The Royer Building’s horizontal lines and grooves, the rounded edges, corners, and windows, the use of glass block and the smooth exterior wall and subdued colors are all elements of the Art Moderne (sometimes called Streamline Moderne) style. The Art Moderne terrazzo floor curved lines and the pedestal mounts for the original soda fountain can still be seen under the floor of the present downtown store.
The original Royer Pharmacy marquee at the downtown Ephrata store had over 130 incandescent lamps that illuminate it from behind at night (see photo below). By 2013, the original wiring insulation was failing and in the interest of energy efficiency, the incandescent bulbs were replaced with LEDs in a design that preserved the aesthetic integrity of the original. The marquee is ready for generations to come.
Royer Pharmacy has been open until 9 PM or later for at least five nights every week since 1879. That’s over 34,000 nights! The store was open 6 nights a week until 10 PM until 1954. In the early part of the 20th century, the community would promenade up and down Main Street on Saturday night and the store was a common stopping point.
Royer Pharmacy existed long before the beginning of local telephone service and it’s original phone number offers an interesting insight into the development of the United States phone system. Royer Pharmacy’s first phone number was 35. William Brossman founded the Denver and Ephrata Telephone and Telegraph Company in 1911 with 100 telephone lines (of which Royer’s was #35). As more people got phone service, more numbers were needed and the phone number became 9035. Next was 3-2435. This changed to RE3-2435 (RE stood for Republic). Today we know this number as 733-2435. Note that the last 2 digits of the original phone number (35) remain at the end of each new phone number. This is often how phone companies added numbers as their exchange grew. See the photo below of paste on bottle labels that reflect each of these phone number changes. (Also note the address change from 2 E. Main St, to 8 E. Main St. and back to 2 E. Main St.)
Royer Pharmacy was the first business in Ephrata to have central air conditioning (1939). The gargantuan air conditioner was installed in the pharmacy’s basement during the construction of the Royer Building. The original unit was water cooled and operated for over 30 years with only minimal repair. Royer Pharmacy had a water meter installed to measure the AC cooling water so that they would be charged only for the water used for cooling and not the customary additional amount for sewer.
It is unknown if the pharmacist George Royer purchased the pharmacy from was Joseph Konigmacher, the Senator and founder of Ephrata Mountain Springs
Young pharmacists Robert Sherman and Patricia (Sherman) Leaman started to learn about pharmacy from their father, Bill Sherman.
Paste-on bottle labels show the history of Royer Pharmacy including the change from "Royer's" Pharmacy to "Royer" Pharmacy, the evolution of the telephone number, and the change from 2 E. Main St. to 8 E. Main St. and back to 2 E. Main St.
Medicine dosing glass from G. S. Royer, Druggist, Ephrata, Pa.
The Royer Pharmacy marquee sign has been in operation since 1939.
The Royer Building design was honored as one of 40 structures featured in a photographic exhibition called 'Uncommon Modern' which was on display at the State Museum of Pennsylvania from 11-2-2014 through 4-26-2015. Photographer Betsy Manning, and curator William Whitaker, an architectural historian from the University of Pennsylvania, were present at the opening.
Order for Codeine Sulfate Powder, 8-15-37. Note this was signed by pharmacist Harry Knight.
Back of the May 25, 1881 check (displayed to the left of this image) - Note the stylish fountain pen endorsement.
Prescription boxes - These were used into the 1950’s to dispense tablets and capsules. Glass and later plastic vials eventually replaced this system. The prescription label was typed and placed inside the box with the medicine. Child-Resistant containers were not a concern.