Monday, March 17, 2014

Haskins Pharmacy - An Era Ends in Norton

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, March 17, 2014

By Bill Gouveia

            To a kid growing up in Norton in the 1960’s, Haskins Pharmacy was a magical place.  I couldn’t wait to go there with my mom on Saturday afternoons because so many good things came from that little building in the center of town.

            We would go grocery shopping at Fernandes Super Market, then cross the street to Haskins to pick up our prescriptions.  I would happily accompany my mother in the hopes of being rewarded with something from this wonderful family business.

            Sometimes I would get to sit at the counter and enjoy a chocolate ice cream.  Or order a coke and watch them pump syrup into the glass, then fill it with soda water.  While waiting I would happily spin on the revolving stool until my mother made me stop.

            Some days my parents sent me inside for the newspaper or a prescription and I would use the change to buy a pack of baseball cards or a Hershey bar.  I would look longingly at the small toys on the shelf, but those were only for special occasions. 

            I loved those trips.  The people there knew who you were, called you by name, and made you feel important.  That’s why when my wife and I got married the only place we even considered for our family medical needs was Haskins Pharmacy.  Even after the soda counter was gone, how could a couple of Norton townies go anywhere else?

            But starting tomorrow, we will have no choice.  Haskins is closing its doors, having sold the business to a nearby competitor.  While that means a well-deserved retirement for owners Mal and June Haskins after nearly 60 years in business, it also means the end of an era in the Town of Norton.

            Now the last real vestige of the Norton Center of my youth is gone.  While I am happy for the Haskins family, I am sad for my community.

            Haskins was not just a business, it was a local institution.  It was one of those places you didn’t even have to call by name for people to know what you were talking about.  In Norton, if you said you were “going to the drug store”, everyone just understood you were heading to Haskins.

            The key to Haskins success during its nearly six decade run was its people.  You start with owners Mal and June, who always took care of those who walked through their door.  The stories of Mal making late-night deliveries to sick families are legendary.  They supported virtually every local organization and charity over the years, and many a youth sports team wore the Haskins name on their shirts.

            Daughters Melanie and Lynne were very much a part of the Haskins we all loved.  Melanie became a skilled pharmacist like her dad, and Lynne worked the counter in her friendly and professional manner.  Son Mark worked there years ago and was “the computer guy”.  My wife and I grew up with them all.

            The people they hired were very special too.  When you worked at Haskins, you stayed a long time.  I don’t want to start naming folks because I will inevitably leave out someone important.  But all of them – the great ladies of Haskins in particular – will forever occupy a place in the hearts of Norton residents.

            Haskins survived a lot during its time in town.  They lost their original home when the building was sold, so Mal and June built the current structure next door.  In recent years CVS opened across the street, and Walgreens built a store immediately next door.  But still Haskins prospered, largely because of their loyal customers.

            And that loyalty was earned.  Haskins specialized in the personal touch, the caring service that today seems to be a lost art.  They knew their customers, cared about their problems, and responded to their needs. 

You will be missed, Haskins Pharmacy.  You were a trusted friend to generations of Norton residents.  You helped thousands upon thousands of people when they were sick and needed you.  You were not simply located within the boundaries of our community, you were an integral part of it.

Thank you from a grateful town.  Thank you for all the memories, and for all the good things.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.


Jim said...

Absolutely Bill...God bless the Haskins family...they added richness to Norton...Many younger folks won't know what they've missed and lost.

Anonymous said...

Is it really tomorrow? I am out of town. I hope to able to walk in one more time. My heart is broken. Ginny Weisman