UPPER WEST SIDE — A bell rings when you enter or leave, but it’s hardly necessary. The 40-year-old Goodrich pharmacy on West 70th Street at Columbus is a small room that could probably fit no more than 10 people at a time, and its owner and pharmacist, Frank Cammarata, has been keeping careful watch for decades.
Many customers have known that bell and Cammarata’s easy smile. But now this small, quiet place sheltered by trees and away from the rush of Columbus Avenue, is closing next Thursday — the victim of tumbling insurance reimbursement rates that Cammarata says have made it impossible for him to stay in business.
"Words cannot express the gratitude I feel towards my customers — my friends," said Cammarata, who watched many of his customers grow up, get married and have children. "[My customers] made my life a happy one, and I hope I did the same for them."
Evidence of Goodrich's pending closing is everywhere, from the half-empty wooden shelves that stretch from floor to ceiling to the handwritten 40-percent-off sign in the window to the long letter proclaiming the news posted at the entrance of the store.
Cammarata said insurance companies have made business increasingly difficult for independent pharmacies like his. They’ve continued to lower reimbursement rates, he said, to a point where he was forced into early retirement.
He said he hasn’t been hurt by competition from the growing number of chain drugstores on the Upper West Side. A Duane Reade at 100 Broadway is hosting its grand opening on Thursday, and there are already more than a dozen in the neighborhood.
"My customers were very loyal," he said. "If they weren’t, I wouldn’t have been here for 40 years."
Cammarata wrote to all of his customers and called as many of them as he could manage to deliver the news. Many have come into the pharmacy in tears, he said.
Roberta Semer’s voice quavered as she recounted her experience at Goodrich’s.
"When I was going through cancer and needed medicine to prevent nausea, [Cammarata] would make sure I had at least one pill in hand if the prescription hadn’t been filled yet," Semer said.
"I feel bereft that he’s no longer there to take care of us."
Many residents are rallying behind a rezoning of the neighborhood that would help protect “mom and pop” shops like Goodrich’s. The new zoning regulation would prevent bigger chains from coming into the neighborhood by limiting the size of the store’s frontage to 40 feet.