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Drug store closes after 42 years

Reid Williams

BRECKENRIDGE – It was a place where people gathered. It was the soda fountain to which the children of 1960s Breckenridge came tramping down the boardwalk. And though the pharmacists and owners changed over the decades, and the shop changed location, there are memories attached to it.

It’s all a memory now: After 42 years, the Breckenridge Drug Store closed its doors.

“It’s always sad to see something like that go,” said town resident Kathy Neel. “There’s not many original things left.”

In recent years, Neel said she appreciated the drug store for its selection of greeting cards. She and others say the store was the best place to buy a card. As a child growing up in Breckenridge, Neel said her sister used to work at the drug store and Neel would hang out there in hopes of free treats from the soda fountain.

The closed-up drug store sits in the Bly Building off Ski Hill Road, but when Sheila Cope Benshoof’s father first opened the drug store, then called Alpine Apothecary, in 1960 it was at 123 S. Main St., where Skinny Winter is now. She was 5 years old. Main Street was dirt, and the sidewalks were boardwalks made of wood, Benshoof said. She, her sister and their parents lived for a time in the apartment above the store, and Benshoof describes it like a scene from “Little House on the Prairie.”

The drug store was the gathering place, she said: She recalls the townspeople coming and going, running home from school for lunch at the soda fountain and her father and his friends inventing a crazy festival called “Ullr Dog Days.”

“I remember my dad drawing a picture of Ullr, he was Swedish, so that’s where the Nordic influence came from. And these guys even started printing their own money,” Benshoof said. “The Treasury Department actually sent officers up when they found out and told them to cut it out. I still have one of the original coins.”

A flood severely damaged the store and forced the Cope family out of the Breckenridge pharmacy business. They sold it to a man, who later sold it to a couple and, in 1971, Rick Bly bought the drug store. It found a new home in the building that bears his name on Ski Hill Road. Attorney Jay Bauer moved into the offices above the store 25 years ago and said he got “kinda used to having a drug store downstairs.”

Then, the basement of the building was unfurnished, and the liquor store (which closed last year) was on the same floor as the drug store.

“About 15 years ago, a water line in the ceiling of our upstairs law office froze and broke, which caused great water damage to all three floors,” Bauer recollected. “All the drugs in the pharmacy below us had to be destroyed and replaced, and much of the liquor in the basement liquor store had to be sold off at fire sale prices because of the water damages.”

The drug store continued to change hands over the years. Bly sold it to a relative. He sold it to Breckenridge town council member David Hinton and his wife, Doris. Doris Hinton said she has fond memories of the retail and pharmacy trade. Even after Wal-Mart and City Market opened with pharmacies,she said the independent local could thrive by giving a special, personal customer service.

“It’s too bad,” Doris Hinton said. “I heard the news it had closed, and I’ve been running into people who tell me, “You know, I went to that drug store for 16 years,’ and the like.”

The Hintons later changed their line of work and sold the business. Doris Hinton said she can see now why the drug store, or any other small shop in town, could be squeezed out of solvency.

“A few things are happening,” Doris Hinton said. “For retail pharmacies and other health professionals, the insurance companies are squeezing the margins out of us. Second, there’s decreased foot traffic in Breckenridge. This is a big debate between the merchants in the core, the town and the resort. And with all this, the rents continue to go up. All that doesn’t help.”

Aspen Drug, which had been in business for 112 years, closed three weeks ago.

Owners Jeanne and Randy Woods reported to the Aspen Times they just weren’t able to make ends meet.

But when Benshoof leaves her home in Fort Collins and comes to Breckenridge, she said she’ll still walk past both buildings and think good thoughts, such as her father on stilts making reindeer tracks at Christmastime.

“It was just that kind of place then,” she said.


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