NATICK — The sadness ripples through Richie Peristere’s voice. Where has the time gone? Oh, he knew this day would come, and when it did it would hurt. The “CLOSED” sign would hang on the front door of Jones Drug.
For generations, the store was the heart of Natick. It opened its doors in 1871.
Peristere is 72 years old. He worked at Jones Drug, uninterrupted, for 56 years. He started by stocking shelves. When he was a teenager, the owner, Donald Jones, trusted him with making deliveries. “That was good. I was able to drive a car,” said Peristere. “I delivered anything we had in the store.”
He bought the store in 1986 and gave the pharmacy the hometown touch, which is why a small store like Jones could hold off the mega-chain pharmacies’ offers for as long as it did.
But the day of reckoning arrived in late April, when Jones Drug closed. “All pharmacy files have been transferred to the CVS Pharmacy at 137 West Central Street, Natick, or customers can choose any CVS Pharmacy location of their choice,” said Stephanie Cunha, manager of CVS’s public relations office in Woonsocket, R.I.
The sale of the business leaves the former Jones space available to renters, but there hasn’t been any movement yet.
“It’s very difficult for Richie, when you can’t sustain the store the way you want it to be,” said Peristere’s wife, Sue. Over the 50-plus years Peristere, rarely took a vacation. “He’s 72 and we’ve got nine grandchildren.”
Peristere hired local people, and the customers patronized the store because they felt the warmness inside. “They were like family, it was like we were all one big family,” said Peristere. “That’s what I’m going to miss the most. The people.”
Upon entering Jones Drug, the first person you’d likely see was Grace Malloy. She’d be tucked behind a corner on the right and if you were looking for a greeting card, cigarettes, a pack of gum, a newspaper or the lucky lottery ticket, you saw Malloy.
She’s 85 years old, and has lived in Natick since the mid-1950’s, having moved from Waltham. So she remembered when Jones Drug had a soda fountain that made the store an after school destination for students from Natick High, a three-minute walk away.
The first owner/pharmacist was Hallett Jones. His son Donald succeeded him. Donald and Jinny had six children. Martha died in 1996. The others, Jessie, Catherine (called Cappy), Hallett II, Duncan and Andy are in their 60s and 70s. They all graduated from Natick High.
The sale of Jones Drug struck a similar chord with the siblings. “The feeling of our family is sadness, but we’re very happy Richie kept the name Jones for as long as he did,” said Jessie, who still lives in Natick. “We knew it was going to close some day. We all have our memories.”
Jessie recalled “my father taking calls at home at midnight for prescriptions.” It was a different time, a small, quiet town, where everyone knew each other and each other’s business, most of the gossip gathered at Jones Drug.
“If you wanted to know what was going on in town, you went to Jones,” said Cappy.
“It was absolutely the place to be after school,” said Jessie. “We called it Jones U. We all hung out at the soda fountain. I loved the raspberry lime rickeys.”
Cappy and Duncan Jones worked in the store when they were kids. “I was 12 when I started cleaning the shelves,” said Cappy. “When I was 14, I ran the cash register and waited on people. I don’t even know if I had a working permit. I worked all hours for my dad. I also worked at Diehl’s [lumber] in Wellesley.”
Duncan, a three-sport athlete at Natick High, worked the store in his mid-teens “sweeping the floor and restocking the shelves.” He’d noticed the high school kids loitering around the magazine rack flirting with each other.
“There used to be six drug stores in town, they all disappeared,” said Hallett, at 75 the oldest Jones sibling. “Things were very good, until the Depression when we took a hit, like everyone else.” The store got a boost because it delivered prescriptions.
To this day Hallett is called “Scoop,” but it’s got nothing to do with working the soda fountain. “When I was born my grandmother kept asking my mother ‘what’s the scoop with the new baby?’”
Andy Jones was 14 when he began at Jones, carting supplies from the cellar and placing them on shelves. It was exhausting and unappealing. “I’d rather just hang out,” he said.
Peristere, who played basketball at Natick High, broke his son, Peter, in as a pharmacist. They worked side by side. If anyone in town had a cough, a rash, smelly feet, blemishes or back pain, the Peristeres likely knew about it.
“We knew everybody in town,” Richie said.
Jones Drug is gone. Memories linger.
Lenny Megliola can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.