‘Mama J’ And ‘The Medicine Man’ Prescribe Music, Magic, And Community
By Elle McLogan
Filed Under: Elle, Elle McLogan, The Dig, The Dig With Elle McLogan
Thompson Chemists in SoHo, you can listen to bluegrass from Sheriff and the Deputy every other Tuesday night. The band plays among rows of ointments and face creams, a performance known as the Thompson Street Medicine Show. It draws a local crowd.
The show is just one of the unusual offerings at the shop, opened in 1994 by pharmacist Gary Alony.
He and his wife Jolie have built their health store into a neighborhood hangout, where visitors greet them by name—Gary is called the “Medicine Man,” and Jolie is “Mama J.”
Sculptures by local artists hang from the ceiling—the store’s devoted clientele includes many artists, who receive a ten percent discount.
Art by Edd Fenner at Thompson Chemists (credit: CBS2)
Gary and Jolie blend bath salts and make candles by hand, and they line the shelves with rare imported beauty products.
Both have endured serious illness. Gary’s cancer is in remission. Experience on the other side of the health care industry has informed the approach they take at Thompson Chemists. In addition to pharmaceuticals, they offer natural remedies, plus a listening ear.
“We are a source of information, and we’re a source of support,” Gary said.
As independent shops like theirs get swallowed up by chain drugstore behemoths, the Alonys hope their originality will keep them in business.
“This type of store, you can’t cookie-cut this,” Gary said. “As people go by, everybody throws in a little pinch of themselves. And that’s how it grows. It gives us one big gumbo, and that’s a community.”
132 Thompson Street
New York, NY 10012
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