By Claudie Benjamin

For a very long time, the Apthorp Pharmacy stood out among many Upper West Side retail businesses as a classy, upscale venue. Apart from compounding prescriptions, something available at only a few local drugstores, customers could get cosmetics at this pharmacy, that they only might acquire at the elegant Fifth Avenue department stores. And here you might buy a pricey English hair brush or a fine tortoiseshell comb, a sleek lipstick case, a fine leather manicure set, or an elegant compact.

For years, the Apthorp Pharmacy occupied a space on the corner of 78th Street and Broadway that had been a pharmacy since about 1910 when the owners of the then all-residential Apthorp building turned some apartments into retail space. Today the Apthorp Pharmacy is located at 2191 Broadway between 77th and 78th Streets.

Pharmacist Russell Gellis grew up in the Gramercy Park area. From the age of 13, he made deliveries for a pharmacy located on 20th and Park. Russell’s father was a postal worker, and Russell earned his spending money making pharmacy deliveries on his bike from the time school let out until around 10pm. Earlier, he had been delivering pizzas but he much preferred the pharmacy deliveries. One thing led to another, and he became a pharmacist. He worked for a number of pharmacies, determined to open his own business. In 1993, he made that happen – moving into the older pharmacy located in the elegant Apthorp. He had the interior of the store renovated, giving it a glamorous makeover. Over the years, he expanded and renovated further. In 2020, he moved the entire business less than a block south to a much smaller space where the rent was lower. Raising an additional challenge, increasingly and irrefutably, customers were using the internet to get lower prices along with special bargains and deals. The look of the Apthorp Pharmacy became less intimidatingly glamorous but specific key components remained. The Covid period brought an unanticipated demand on the pharmacy to administer thousands of vaccinations both onsite and at the Jewish Community Center. Throughout, the pharmacy remained open.

Compounding medications was ever an essential service valued by customers. And the availability of affordable fertility drugs remained strongly valued by customers. “We specialize in fertility drugs, and we’re known for our outstanding, supportive service along with the lowest prices for pay-your-own fertility medications.” He said, “Only a couple of other places in the city offer this kind of discount.” The pharmacy has a robust website, including a very accessible and interesting blog. Fertility medications are delivered for free. It goes without saying that this niche is more significant than the availability of fancy English boar bristles and nylon hair brushes.

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