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End of an Era: Vandalia Drug

Posted on Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 2:36 pm


Shown, from left: Debbie and Joe Salois have been the owners of Vandalia Drug since 1995. Prior to that, both Joe and Debbie worked in the store. It is at the store where they met, fell in love, and eventually became the owners.

If the walls of Joe Salois’ Vandalia Drug could talk, there is no telling how many volumes of unique and funny stories would be told.
However, plenty of stories and laughter was shared as longtime customers stopped by to reminisce on Friday, October 4 during  Vandalia Drug’s farewell party.
Countless friends and acquaintances  gathered to eat some cake and enjoy a nickel cup of coffee while it still exists.
“I have been coming to Vandalia Drug for about 20 years, its a shame its closing,” said Earl Henderson.
While some people have only been visiting the drug store a handful of years, others have been there on a regular basis for over 20 years.
“I’ve been coming here for probably 25 years. There was always friends and good people to associate with. It’s sad their closing up, and it sure will be missed,” said Bill Beatty.
John Fitzgerald bought Weiser Drugs in 1972, and then merged with Clinton Drug to become Vandalia Drug. It was then that pharmacy intern Joe Salois joined the family, and later on with his wife Debbie, become the owners of a beloved Vandalia landmark.
When the Salois’ took over, the soda fountain that was present in the ‘70s had been gutted and was only being used as a sink. So Joe found one listed on Ebay and had it shipped from California to Missouri. Joe and some his regulars helped him install it. Then Joe had a man build wood frame shelves around it, that has held some interesting conversation pieces over the years. The first section held historical coffee items, the second section was for collectible Coca-Cola and soda memorabilia, the third was for antique pharmacy tools, and the fourth section was dedicated to local Vandalia historical artifacts. People would even come by and give Joe things to display on the soda fountain shelves
“The drug store has been a gathering place to catch up on the local gossip for many years, most of which is not always true. But I really hate to see it go,” said Charlene Teague.
When Vandalia Drug closes, Joe and his staff will transfer all pharmacy business to the County Market grocery store on Highway 54. Salois indicated that it will take a couple of months to clear out old medical records and other items that fill his building. As far as inventory, a majority of the store items will be distributed to other  HealthMart stores in the area.
Even though there are many people who have mixed emotions about the closing, it is the start of a new chapter in Joe and Debbie Salois’s  life.
“I’m happy to be moving on because it’s something we have needed to do for a number of reasons. But the closer we get to that last day of locking the door, I’m sure I’m going to be a lot more emotional as we get closer and closer. It’s not just the 18 years we have had here, I worked here and trained here in college, and I met my wife here,” said owner Joe Salois.
Over the years, there has been almost a magnetic draw that has led people young and old to the familiar Main Street drug store.
“I have made so many friends through the drug store and its been nice to be able to keep up with things by coming in here,” said Phyllis Branstetter.
Ed Parks said, “Good conversation and camaraderie is what has kept me coming all these years.”
Ten years after previous owner John Fitzgerald sold the store to Joe, he still came in to help out. Eventually, Joe’s mother-in-law, Lorene Syler, who was newly retired, started coming in every morning to help out in her free time.
“The history of the store goes back 50 or 60 years, the same people and a lot of our old friends that spent all of their time here have passed away. That’s the thing that bothers me most is that we won’t be able to have this option for people. More than that our kids and grandkids won’t get to experience this camaraderie. There’s just not a lot places these days where you can network with people face to face,” Salois said.
Sadly, after 40 years of friendly service, good coffee, and a lifetime full of memories, Vandalia Drug will close its doors for good this upcoming Saturday.
The store will be closed just one day, Monday, October 14 and open as County Market Pharmacy on Tuesday, October 15. While all of the medical records will be transferred to the new store, it would be a good idea to bring your insurance cards on your first visit. The old Vandalia Drug phone number will remain the same, 594-2136.