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It is with a heavy heart that 70-year-old Raymond Soares dispenses combination of different drugs and ointments at the Poona Drug Stores these days. A landmark of sorts on M G Road, Camp, for the last 106 years, the shop is all set to down shutters on May 3, much to the dismay of loyal customers who want the management to rethink its decision.
A notice put up at the shop informs customers about the closure as Marie Soares, wife of Raymond, ruefully admits that “all good things come to an end”. This store has been a heritage landmark in the city ever since Soares’ grandfather J M Braganza set it up on April 1, 1908.
With no male heir to run the store, it was managed by Braganza’s cousins when Raymond took over the family business 45 years ago.
While Raymond says he needs to retire now, his family members say the land owners have also requested that the property be returned. “We cannot afford rentals at other places, everything is so expensive,” says Sarina who has actively been helping her father Raymond run the store.
The store boasts of famous customers like the then Governor of Poona and even Shah Nawaz Bhutto, the grandfather of Benazir Bhutto, who were regular visitors. There are old loyalists who prefer to wait for two days if the store runs out of stock of certain medicines.
Says 66-year-old Ashwini Sikri, a resident of Camp: “I have been buying medicines and other general items from this store since 1966. Of course, times change. But it is sad that the store is shutting down. This was one place I could shop with confidence.”
While the initial customers were British who purchased toiletries and cosmetics, the store soon expanded and started dispensing skin ointments, ‘shol’ solution for dialysis patients and other drugs. The shop has till date maintained its century old dispensing book and has a few records of the oldest medical prescriptions.
Raymond says the store has been catering to generations of families who have been regular customers. Like 86-year-old Dhun Adenwala who stays on Napier Road and comes to this shop for most of his requirements. “It is such a homely place. Not only do they welcome you but even the attendants are so knowledgeable about medicines. They have put their heart and soul in this store. I find their drugs extremely safe and reliable and my family members continue to purchase from this store,” he says.
The shop that has built a reputation of never selling spurious drugs continues to maintains the traditional old world discipline and is open from 9 am to 1 pm and 4 pm to 8 pm. Delivering medicines to homes of people who are too sick to make a trip to the shop and sponsoring poor patients’ medicines, the store had over the last century developed a bond of trust and affection with customers. Soares admits it is a tough call to shut shop.