Places that Matter

C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries

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Photo courtesy of C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries
Photo courtesy of C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries
Photo courtesy of C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries
Photo courtesy of C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries
Photo courtesy of C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries
Photo courtesy of C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries
Photo courtesy of C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries
The Oldest Surviving Apothecary-Pharmacy in America
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Written by Gwynneth C. Malin for Place Matters with contributions from Ian Ginsberg

Established in 1838, C.O. Bigelow is the oldest apothecary in America. It is also a New York Institution. Bigelow is an ethical pharmacy in the traditional sense, yet the “coolest” place in New York to buy anything beauty. The owner scours the globe looking for the best of the best in beauty and personal care, and the store is a collection of his favorites, as well as the shop’s own things. Stepping into C.O. Bigelow is a walk back into a time of personalized attention not often seen any longer; a gathering place, a comforting atmosphere in the otherwise impersonal chaotic world of retail. Some say, “if you can’t find it anywhere else, try Bigelow's.”
 
In 1838, Dr. Galen Hunter opened the store as The Village Apothecary Shop at 102 Sixth Avenue in Manhattan. In 1880, Hunter sold the establishment to an employee, Clarence Otis Bigelow, who renamed it C.O. Bigelow. Twenty-two years later, Bigelow moved the shop to its current location of 414 Sixth Avenue. In 1939, William Ginsberg bought the shop and bequeathed it to his son in the 1950’s. Ginsberg’s grandson, Ian Ginsberg, who grew up working in the shop, joined the business in 1985, and is now the third generation pharmacist and owner of C.O. Bigelow. Ian’s son, Alec, has just finished his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree, and will one day become the fourth generation to take the helm. 
 
The business is a pharmacy, a surgical and medical supplier, and a retailer of unique cosmetic products.  In terms of pharmacy, C.O. Bigelow maintains one of the largest inventories of pharmaceuticals in the entire city. With a combination of state of the art technology and a staff of six pharmacists and PharmD’s, C.O. Bigelow delivers an experience long lost in today’s health environment. The staff also offers a variety of services including compounding, prescription flavoring for children and animals, vaccinations, travel medicine and MTM (Medication Therapy Management).  The pharmacy has had a long-standing role as a supplier of HIV medication.
 
In addition to its pharmacy, C.O. Bigelow carries an inventory of thousands of beauty products. Ian Ginsberg curates the wide selection of imported brands of personal care products by maintaining close ties to other family-run businesses in America and Europe. One of the original products, a body cream called Lemon Body Cream was developed in 1870, and is still available today.