White’s Pharmacy is a Columbus, Ohio landmark
John White first got the bug to run a store after working for Bill Culter. Bill had a drug store on 5th Avenue in Columbus and JK worked there while in school. Culter was not a pharmacist but was an innovative merchant, carrying premium brands such as Hallmark Cards. Bill was also a jazz aficionado, taking frequent trips to New York’s Hickory House. It was there Bill became friends with legendary pianist Marian McPartland. Ms. McPartland frequently stayed at Mr. Culter’s house when she came to Columbus. JK and Mary Jean’s love of her music no doubt grew from this association.
After graduating from Ohio State’s Pharmacy school in 1949, JK went to work running a store for brothers Lester and Stanley Risch of Logan. The Risch’s had stores in Logan, Lancaster and Washington Courthouse. JK and Mary Jean moved to Washington Courthouse and ran that store until John had an opportunity to run his own store.
Today JK’s son JR operates one store on East Livingston Avenue in Columbus and continue to treat their loyal customers with old-fashioned personal service and as a source for hard-to-find items. Customers are greeted by name and treated like family. Several employees have been with White’s for over 30 years.
The first White’s Drugs operated at 1175 Main Street from 1951 until JK closed the store in 1967.
Noel, John’s older brother arrived in Columbus the day after Thanksgiving in 1951 to help John buy the store. The store had been for sale for several years and had recently been closed.
Noel told JK to look around and survey the condition of the store and merchandise, and asked John if he wanted the store. JK gave an enthusiastic, “Yes!” and Noel, using his unique negotiating skills, made a cash offer well below the asking price. The deal was sealed right on the spot.
The store had a Soda Fountain, as was the custom then, and the White’s cleaned up the store and reopened it. The previous owner was a carpenter and built all of the fixturing himself. Some of those fixtures are still in use today. JK made some of the overhead signs, modeled after ones he had seen from his early days at Culter’s.
Livingston Avenue Store
The Livingston store opened in 1961. JK had been eyeing a location on the east side for several years. A new building owned by Frank Resch became home to White’s. Today both Resch’s Bakery and White’s Pharmacy are favorite east side retailers. It’s hard to go to one without visiting the other.
The Sedalia store was opened in 1967. Plans for the neighborhood never materialized and the store was finally closed around 1984.