Page 64 - Aug2017

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Photo from 1932 courtesy of Rosenberg Library
“We wanted to stay as authentic to the time period as we
could,” Natili explains as she describes how her father, a
contractor, rebuilt the mezzanine level, saved the interior
columns from corrosion, and added a period-appropriate tin
Fortunately, most of the smoke and water damage from the
fire was contained to the upper portion of the building, which
meant that the original lunch counter installed by C.J. Michaelis
was still viable—it still boasts the original tile and stools. The
countertop had been modified sometime mid-century and was
in bad shape, so it was replaced with an all-new marble version.
Early descriptions of the counter maintain that seating was
available around the entire perimeter of the soda fountain, but
the addition of the grill at the east end of the counter created
a horseshoe-shape effect, fortunately without detracting at all
from the charm.
“Before this,” says Natili, pointing to the counter, “all of the
soda fountains at the drugstores were against the wall. It was
really quite innovative for its time.”
Star Drug Store officially reopened for business in June of
2007, and since that time it has become wildly popular among
visitors and locals alike for its savory breakfast, delicious
burgers, and of course its authentic soda fountain. Medicine is
no longer offered, but fortunately for guests of Star Drug Store,
a touch of time-travel mixed with a heaping dose of nostalgia is
a pretty effective prescription.
The $15,000 contract was awarded to a local contractor
named J.W. Zempter, and included plans for not only doubling
the interior space available to the drugstore but also converting
the wooden structure to brick without compromising Clayton’s
design. The contract stipulated an opening date of May 1, 1917.
In what would amount to over $300,000 today, Star Drug
Store’s new location featured a first-ever soda fountain in the
center of the store with seating for sixty people around its
four sides. A second level was created by building an open
mezzanine that looked down onto the soda fountain, and here
patients could lie undisturbed on cots under the watchful eye of
the pharmacist who would ensure that any medications did not
have adverse effects.
A mere two years after Star debuted its new location, C.J.
Michalis would release the remainder of his holdings and
permanently retire from Star Drug Company. When he passed
away on December 31, 1928, at John Sealy Hospital, his life and
entrepreneurial success was celebrated city-wide, and honorary
pallbearers at his funeral included a laundry list of Galveston
elite—Maco Stewart (Stewart Mansion, Stewart Road), Edmond
R. Cheesborough (Secretary of the Grade-Raising Commission),
Grady Dickinson, Sealy Hutchings, and prominent business
owners H.A. Eiband and Robert I. Cohen.
Throughout the rest of the twentieth century into today, Star
Drug Store would continue to make history. In the 1920s it was
purchased by George Clampitt and Grady Dickinson who would
operate it until 1982. They made a name for themselves during
the Jim Crow era by declaring Star Drug Store to have the first
desegregated lunch counter in the city.
This year, current store owner Natili Monsurd celebrates with
her patrons the one-hundred year anniversary of that fated
lunch counter and works daily to continue the storied legacy
of Star Drug Store. “I never found a date of when exactly the
soda fountain opened, so we decided to celebrate for a couple
months throughout the year,” Natili says.
Prior to Natili, ownership of the store changed hands several
times throughout the 1980s and 90s, and in 1998 a fire broke
out in the elevator shaft of the adjacent building, claiming the
drugstore as one of its victims and closing the store indefinitely.
But it would find new life in 2001, when it was purchased by
Natili’s mother and father. In 2002, the family began what
would ultimately become a five-year-long restoration.
Star Drug fire March 13, 1998
Hurricane Ike damage to Star Drug
Star Drug Store former location at 23rd
Street and Postoffice (center) and just to
right the currrent location, circa 1932