MS. REBECCA SHEIR
But we'll start off today's show with a rather rare piece of history.
MR. BARRY DEUTSCHMAN
Here's a receipt for a delivery to the White House for Mrs. Jacquelyn Kennedy.
This is pharmacist Barry Deutschman.
This receipt was auctioned off at Sotheby's, but one of the neighbors sons worked at Sotheby's and made a copy of the receipt so that we could have it.
Deutschman has owned Morgan's Pharmacy in Georgetown since 1992. Can we see what she purchased? I'm trying to read the handwriting.
Aspirin, I can't make that out, Almay face something, spot strips, probably a band-aid of some type and Revlon polish.
For 75 cents.
Yeah. Well, the total delivery with federal tax and state tax came to $8.17.
Wow. We're in the back office of Morgan's, an institution whose history extends well beyond the Kennedy administration. In fact it was 100 years ago that Malcolm and Harold Morgan first opened their doors on the corner of 30th and P.
This is what the store looked like in 1912. You can see the same fixtures going down both sides of the store.
Soda fountain, oh man.
The soda fountain. You know, a funny story about the soda fountain. In 1912, the drink that they served in the most was either Coca-Cola or something called Two Cents Plain which was just seltzer water. Well, today the biggest seller in the cooler, for health reasons, is no longer Coke, it's seltzer. So it's interesting, we're going back to the future, so to speak.
Everything old is new again.
Well, not everything. The drugstores products have expanded and diversified. The original black exterior is now a minty green and certain customer habits, I guess you could say...
Here's a photo on the wall from the '50s...
...have gone up in smoke. A lot of people are smoking inside the pharmacy.
Everybody smoked. You know...
But, yes, much has stayed the same over the past century. Morgan's still does deliveries, for instance, a couple hundred a week. It still offers personal charge accounts and, says staff member Dave Ibinson, it's still a place where everybody knows your name.
MR. DAVE IBINSON
Probably like 90 percent of our cliental is a return customer. So that in itself is something you don't get elsewhere.
And Ibinson knows all about getting stuff. He's the stores buyer and merchandiser. Right now he's going through a set of old wooden drawers where customers can find all sorts of goods. The drawers, by the way, probably date back to the 1910s or '20s.
You name it, you can find it.
And if you can't?
We'll get it for you.
We aim to please.
MR. MAURICE BROWN
It's our customers, you know, we take care of them.
Maurice Brown has been the manager at Morgan's since the late 1980s.
It's like a big family and, you know, that's pretty special. Actually it's, you know, these places aren't around anymore. You know, all the big box stores comes in and gotten rid of all the little guys.
Well, not all of them. The National Community Pharmacist Associations says upwards of 20,000 independent pharmacies still exist in the U.S. In the 1980s, it was more like 40,000. And that's approximately the number of chain drug stores today. According to The National Association of Chain Drug Stores, that's up from 30,000 in the late '90s. But Barry Deutschman insists, when it comes to those big chains...
Competition in itself was never really a problem.
What has been a problem, he says, is the health care system. Since he graduated from the now defunct George Washington University School of Pharmacy in 1958, he's watched reimbursements from private and government third party payers shrink.
You know, the tighter squeeze in terms of making a profit on certain medications.
And he's watched prescription prices rise.
I did work here in the '70s, part-time, and you filled a prescription and you made a fair profit, but the average price of a prescription was maybe $25, maximum. Well, today, prescriptions are very expensive, especially brand name drugs.
Then, of course, there's been the growth of pharmacy benefit managers or PBM's, huge companies like Caremark and Medco, which administer nearly every prescription drug insurance plan in the United States.
Customers don't understand, when insurance companies don't want to pay for a specific drug, and they'll say but that's what my doctor wants me to have. And unfortunately, that's not what the insurance company wants you to have so you have to go through the process of a prior authorization and that can take anywhere from 24 hours to three or four days or a total rejection.
Which is why Deutschman's goal is to help customers navigate the system.
And fight the hurdles and the maze of getting through that. You know, I mean, that's one thing that independents still can afford to give and that's the time and the energy and the service.
And Morgan's, he says, can give something else, too, 100 years of colorful history. One of his favorite moments was when Julia Child came to town to work with some chefs at the Smithsonian.
And then she walks in one day and I looked at her and I said, well, hello Ms. Child, how are you? What a pleasant surprise to have you come into Morgan's. And she said, oh, I need some help. I said, well, what's that? She said, I need some Tums for the tummy. So I'll never forget that and that's a story I like to tell. Of course, when I do tell it, I do imitate her.
You didn't imitate her this time.
Barry Deutschman has collected decades of stories by now, but he says he's not taking off his crisp white Morgan's Pharmacy button down anytime soon. In terms of your future here at Morgan's, you're going to stick around?
I have no plans on retiring. I love what I do. I've always considered myself a people person. So I love being around people and I love talking with people. I mean, what more could I want?
Well, only he knows the answer to that question. But whatever it is, chances are, he can find it at Morgan's. After all, they aim to please.
To see photographs of Morgan's Pharmacy through the years from 1912 to the present day, visit our website, metroconnection.org.
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