Rural Missouri Magazine

At Henderson's Drug Store they treat you
Just like family


by Heather Berry

When you step into Henderson’s Drug Store it’s a bit like entering a homey little shop in Andy Griffith’s Mayberry. The green-and-white tile floor, with the name “Henderson’s” set into the design, seems to pull you through a portal to the past, when times were less hurried and people actually knew their neighbor’s name.

Pharmacist Bill Henderson, 72, loves his job because he gets to see his friends and neighbors — and because he has the opportunity to work side by side with his son, David.

Father and son pharmacists Bill and David Henderson take a moment to enjoy their 1950s-style soda fountain.

“I’ve been working here since I was a little kid, either sweeping floors, stocking shelves or making deliveries,” says David, 40. “I always knew I wanted to come back here and work with Dad in the pharmacy.”

For Bill, who’s been a pharmacist for a half century, having his son work by his side is a tradition which began 161 years ago with his great-grandfather, Osborne Henderson.

“My great-grandfather worked with a Dr. Ober back then. One night he was called out with Dr. Ober to help with a patient whose arm required amputation,” says Bill. “The doctor stayed with the patient and sent my great-grandfather back to town with the amputated arm so they could dissect it for further study.”

Bill goes on to say that traveling through the dark night with an amputated arm swinging from the saddle was enough to make his great-grandfather reconsider his thoughts on practicing medicine. Instead, Henderson bought Dr. Ober’s interest in an apothecary shop. And that’s how Henderson’s Drug Store came to be in 1841.

Five generations of Hendersons have owned the family business located in Glasgow, about 30 miles north of Boonville. While they’ve had three locations in the town, the current building has been their home since 1916.

Throughout its history, the drugstore has survived everything from the Civil War battle which leveled an entire block of the town in 1864 to a flue fire in 1947 which threatened to close the pharmacy for good.
“Smoke was rolling out the front windows and I thought the whole place was gone,” says Bill. “But we were able to salvage the tin ceiling and many of the fixtures. Most of what you see now was here then. It took a lot of elbow grease and sanding, but we saved it.”

All of the Hendersons seem to have started out doing about the same job.

“Like David, I worked here when I was a young boy,” says Bill. “My dad also operated a Kansas City Star distribution agency here and I had a paper route. I think I got 5 cents per paper I delivered each Saturday night. It was pretty good money for a kid back then.”

Henderson’s Drug Store is open 365 days a year from 7 a.m. until 5:30 or, as Bill says, “until we’re done for the day.”

The Hendersons are a dependable team, filling prescriptions any time of day or night. Keeping that neighborly, old-fashioned feel to their business, the duo still makes deliveries for those who can’t pick them up.

Customers have come to know Henderson’s Drug Store not only as a business they can count on, but a place where they can stop, sit a spell and chat with their friends. Retired postal worker Jim Partise makes Henderson’s his first stop of the day.

“Jim is usually sitting outside waiting for us to open. We go on back to the pharmacy and Jim comes in right behind us and makes the coffee for the morning crowd,” Bill says. “We don’t pay him; he just does it out the of the generosity of his heart. He’s done it for years and we appreciate it.”

Henderson’s Drug Store also offers burgers and tasty treats at their old-fashioned soda fountain which was installed in 1916, but closed briefly during the Depression when ice cream treats were a luxury to most. Today you can sit and spin on the stools along the fountain counter, or relax in one of the few booths for lunch. Most fountain items are priced between $1 and $3.

“Most people come in for our fresh-squeezed orangeade or cherry phosphates,” says David. “But we have malts, shakes, sarsaparilla and ice cream sodas which are popular, too.”

When they’re busy in the pharmacy, Bill’s wife, Delma, and David’s wife, Sarah, handle the soda fountain and other drugstore duties along with long-time employees Jeanie Strodtman and Susan Peuster. Jeanie has worked at the pharmacy off and on since she was in high school in 1951, returning full-time in 1974 when Bill’s brother and fellow pharmacist, Walter, died of cancer. The partnership with Bill’s son David began in 1986, the fifth generation of Hendersons to run the pharmacy.

The younger Hendersons are expecting twin boys early this spring. Both Bill and David say no pressure will be placed on the young lads to head toward pharmacy school and take over the family business when they’re grown.

“Dad and Mom never put any pressure on me to come back and work with Dad in the pharmacy,” says David. “Time will tell with the twins.”

With time comes many changes and the father and son team soon realized they were going to have to join the computerized world. So the duo finally bit the bullet and got a couple of computers to use in the pharmacy.

“Dad says you either go with the flow or you don’t go,” says David.

While they’ve had to join the information age for the pharmacy end of things, they’ve managed to maintain a local charm at Henderson’s not many businesses have these days. It’s not every pharmacist who will come chat with you at the soda fountain once your prescription is filled and see what is going on with your family.

Long-time customer and family friend John Stundebeck can only think of one thing to say about the generations of Hendersons he has known.

“They’re the most accommodating people I know,” says John. “They treat you like you’re family.”

Henderson’s Drug Store is located at 523 First Street, Glasgow, MO 65254; (660) 338-2125.


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