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Thompson Chemists: A Pharmacy Where 'Mama J' And 'The Medicine Man' Prescribe Music, Magic, And Community

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - When was the last time you heard live music at a drugstore?

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At Thompson Chemists in SoHo, you can listen to bluegrass from Sheriff and the Deputy every other Tuesday night. The band plays among rows of ointments and face creams, a performance known as the Thompson Street Medicine Show. It draws a local crowd.

Sheriff and the Deputy at the Thompson Street Medicine Show
Sheriff and the Deputy at the Thompson Street Medicine Show (credit: CBS2)

The show is just one of the unusual offerings at the shop, opened in 1994 by pharmacist Gary Alony.

He and his wife Jolie have built their health store into a neighborhood hangout, where visitors greet them by name—Gary is called the "Medicine Man," and Jolie is "Mama J."

Jolie and Gary Alony, Owners of Thompson Chemists
Jolie and Gary Alony, Owners of Thompson Chemists (credit: CBS2)

Sculptures by local artists hang from the ceiling—the store's devoted clientele includes many artists, who receive a ten percent discount.

Art at Thompson Chemists
Art at Thompson Chemists (credit: CBS2)

Gary and Jolie blend bath salts and make candles by hand, and they line the shelves with rare imported beauty products.

Both have endured serious illness. Gary's cancer is in remission. Experience on the other side of the health care industry has informed the approach they take at Thompson Chemists. In addition to pharmaceuticals, they offer natural remedies, plus a listening ear. 

"We are a source of information, and we're a source of support," Gary said.

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As independent shops like theirs get swallowed up by chain drugstore behemoths, the Alonys hope their originality will keep them in business.

"This type of store, you can't cookie-cut this," Gary said. "As people go by, everybody throws in a little pinch of themselves. And that's how it grows. It gives us one big gumbo, and that's a community."

Thompson Chemists
132 Thompson Street
New York, NY 10012
(212) 598-9790

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