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It’s been twenty three years since Cook’s Drugs closed its doors. It had a little bit of everything, including a soda fountain where Green Rivers, ice cream sodas, hand dipped milkshakes and flavored Cokes were available. Cook’s best buys for kids on hot summer days was a metal shake container full of Root Beer and ice for just .25 cents!
If customers didn’t have the change, fountain workers supplied free ice water for those who asked. The fountain was popular with adults working in others businesses on the square who wanted a cup of coffee for their break.
Then owner, Ramsey Cook, grew up helping his father, Ben. His first job, while still in grade school was cleaning the wood floors with sweeping compound.
“Then we made a big step up to linoleum,” Cook said.
Cook’s Pharmacy was in business a total of forty-three years. In 1998, Ramsey made the difficult choice to shut the doors. “The biggest reason for closing right now is they were going to put me out of business in the future,” Cook had said.
He sold the business to CVS/Revco and transferred all of the prescriptions. Part of the sell was that Ramsey was able to secure a job as one of the three pharmacists. Cook explained that decision was prompted by several factors, but it was primarily the right time. He said the major pharmacy chains, managed health care and third party prescription services were making it more difficult to operate a profitable business.
“I can no longer compete in a field slowly being dominated by large retail pharmacy chains and HMO’s,” he had said.
Cook said that insurance companies have all but forced small pharmacists out of business. “In order to fill a Carle prescription, for instance, I have to sign a contract which states the prices they will pay me for each drug I use,” Ramsey said. “And every year the prices decrease which makes it hard to many any profit.”
In addition, Cook said that insurance companies wouldn’t pay him in a timely manner with some of them waiting several months before they issue checks. “It really hurts my cash flow, especially when more than sixty-five percent of my business is filling prescriptions under various insurance company contracts.”
Price discrimination taking place in the healthcare field was another reason for the close. “When hospitals get things for one price, then you have the mail-order companies offering sales, you just can’t compete.”
The closing of the pharmacy was a hardship not only on the Cook family, but the residents who depended on the business for their medical needs. Though the records were all transferred, Chrisman resident Nellie Norman was still effected.
“I don’t know what I’ll do because I can’t see to drive. I often walked over there at least once a week and went there for things other than prescriptions,” Norman said in a 1998 interview.
Norman often bought her vitamin supplements, medical supplies and toiletry items the pharmacy sold. “About three years ago, I took out the fountain because with convenience stores, people weren’t coming in,” Cook had said. “And I reduced my inventory because wholesalers weren’t carrying things like school supplies anymore. Wal-Mart was selling them cheaper than wholesalers could.”
The closing of Cook’s pharmacy was the end of an era. In 1872, James Boles and his son John came from Bloomfield and opened the first drug store in Chrisman. The building was located on the northwest corner of the north side of the square.
The next record of a drug store in Chrisman was one owned by Camerer & Musselman, located at the northwest corner of the square.
In 1891, Mr. A.E. Schnitker came from Cincinnati, Ohio. He and his father in law, Mr. W.T. Gilkey, purchased the stock of Cameter & Musselman.
On July 20th, 1891, a fire destroyed the entire west side with the exception of the building where the drug store was. During the next few years, the west side was rebuilt and Mr. W.E. and Charles Holden opened a drug store which later was operated by Mr. W.R. Green.
In 1906, Mr. Schnitker and his brother in law, Mr. R.L. Waldruff, purchased stock of Holden Brothers.
They conducted the business until 1913 when Roger Schnitker bought out Mr. Waldruff’s interest and the business was known as A.E. Schnitker & Son. The business was continued until 1946 when it was sold to Mr. C.V. Cummins.
Then in 1957, it was sold to Mr. Ben R. Cook and was changed to Cook’s Drug Store.
Years later, Ben and June Cook turned over the keys to the two buildings that eventually became the Chrisman Public Library. The two structures located on the business square previously were home to Cook’s Drug Store and Cook’s Villager Dress Shop.
“If we come up with enough money, we will do both buildings at the same time,” Chrisman Library Board Member Mary D. Woodyard said in 1998.
The library had received a $70,000 legislative grant through the office of Senator Judy Myers. Woodyard said a letter writing campaign to Chrisman residents was also well received and several donations were made to help with the project.
Officials didn’t know how much it would cost to rehabilitate the two buildings to function as a library.
The long term goal was to create one space by cutting an arch in the masonry walls that separates the structures.
Then Chrisman Mayor Mike Krabel said a more in depth investigation of the costs could start and that the property transfer was complete.
He said a meeting between city council members, the library board and Bob Colvin of Francis Associates was scheduled at the earliest possible time.
“We may not have everything in concrete at the first meeting, but we’ll get a plan started,” Krabel had said.
The Cook’s donation presented challenges for the library as well as representing solutions to long term problems.
The current library was housed in a former church that could not easily be adapted to meet the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act and this prevented the library staff from seeking a variety of grants to assist with funding the facility.
Another problem with that current location was limited space. The library collection couldn’t grow without more room. Woodyard said that the building that was formerly known as Cook’s Drugs had slightly more floor space that the then present library, but the addition of the old Village Shop would approximately double the library’s size.
For Ben and June Cook, donating the buildings was the right thing to do, “I like the idea of having something on the square,” June had said.
Her husband, Ben, explained that they had several opportunities to rent the space and there were some tentative offers to buy the buildings.
He said in each case concerns existed about the interested parties’ abilities to provide adequate funding to carry the proposed business.