Any commuter traveling north on North Main Street each day has seen the gradual construction of Greenline Apothecary. The drug store and soda fountain, finished with a pop of neon signage and a green 1940s car parked outside, is now open and ready for business. The store and its older sibling in Wakefield have become somewhat of a Rhode Island phenomenon, following the nation-wide trend of nostalgic items and businesses. Like typewriters and turntables, what’s old is new and cool again.
One short traverse through the apothecary will bring older folks back to their childhoods. For others, it may conjure scenes from Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. And don’t worry – at this business, no one is slapping their employees until their ears bleed. The pharmacy franchise, named after the T train where owner and pharmacist Christina Procaccianti and her husband Ken met, opened a second store on North Main to bring new life into the neighborhood.
Greenline is the brainchild of Christina, who sought to bring back a piece of old-time nostalgia from her youth. As a child growing up in New Jersey, Christina would tag along with her father who was a greeting card salesman in the southern part of the state. His main clients were “mom-and-pop” independent drug stores with soda fountains. The more often she made the rounds with her father, the more she fell in love with the environment, care, and community the businesses provided. “They were more than just drug stores. They were fixtures in the community,” Ken says, recalling Greenline’s origin story.
A sense of community and independence is what Ken and his wife believe will sustain their local franchise in the years to come. With big corporations like CVS, Walgreens, and even potentially Amazon in the pharmaceutical mix, Greenline’s owners did not balk at the threat of big business. “Every Goliath needs a David,” Ken says with a shrug of his shoulders. “We’re trying to inject humanity back into the profession.”
And if free prescription delivery in a green 1949 panel van isn’t enough to inject humanity back into your script-filling experience, post up at the soda fountain bar to sample treats that will transport you to the 1940s. Floats, sundaes, and shakes made with ice cream from local and regional creameries abound on the fountain menu, but even more intriguing are the more traditional menu items. Things like egg creams, phosphates, and lime rickeys are served in tall, curved fountainware with a striped paper straw.
It’s only fitting that soda fountains began popping up in pharmacies back in the day. Perfecting these sweet concoctions requires knowledge about chemistry. So, who better to ensure chemical exactitude than a pharmacist? These medical professionals would create tasty sodas and “tonics” to, literally, “help the medicine go down” and mask the bitterness of the medicinal powders and pills.
The husband and wife decided to follow in the old-school pharmacy tradition, devising their menu recipes based off of exact measurements and which ingredients they felt would have the best chemistry. Ken says, “We approached the recipes scientifically. That’s how soda fountains kind of entered the cultural landscape in America.” The couple tries to keep the menu as authentic as possible. All of the sodas are mixed by hand, and the fountain even uses the original organic syrup brand that was used to make the first-ever egg cream.
One of the most interesting things, Ken remarks, is the way that the store is allowing people to relive their youth with an older set of eyes. “[Soda fountains] take on a really important memories for people from their childhood. You know, we see all generations, all walks of life come into our pharmacies, and it’s so interesting to see the different reactions from the different generations.” 905 North Main Street