McCartney’s Drug Store

Located on the main plaza at the corner of St. George and King Streets, McCartney’s stood watch over the intersection of the two main commercial streets in downtown St. Augustine. The soda fountain was prominently located down the side wall and there was a small area in back with a few tables and chairs. Sunday mornings kept the soda fountain busy as members of both the Episcopal and Catholic churches would stop by for coffee or cokes (we belong to that group of southerners who refer to all sodas as cokes) and a bit of socializing. When we were kids, any kind of soft drink was an infrequent treat and Sunday after church at McCartney’s was usually our best chance.

The other main attraction for us kids was the telephone. Not a pay phone, but a normal telephone was available at the back end of the cosmetic counter – a well supervised location – so we could call home after the movies or church events or a visit to the library to have Mom come pick us up. It was actually a good marketing tool since the time waiting for Mom to arrive was usually spent sipping a cherry Coke bought with the last quarter saved from the movie money.

In the days before department stores, the drug store was the place to buy cosmetics. Sure, the dime store sold cosmetics too, but not the “good” stuff and without the “expert” to provide personalized service. McCartney’s had a great selection of the good stuff and even a few of the basic over-the-counter medicines, but I don’t remember a pharmacy. I don’t think they needed one.

In the early 70s, a strip mall anchored with a K-Mart began the migration away from downtown shopping. Soon after a small mall with both Penneys and Belks department stores and a mini theater was the death knell to the business district. Today, King Street and St. George street are lined with tee shirt and souvenir shops while the old McCartney’s drug store is now office space for the developer who is turning the building into high-priced condos on the upper floors and boutiques at street level. Options for a soft drink and a bit of socializing after church are fewer and farther away.

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