Since the 1880’s there’s been a drug store along Main Street in downtown Wilmore. There have been some major changes over the years in what medications wind up in customers’ hands, but Sims Drug Store itself has retained much the same look for decades.
It’s an interesting dichotomy. Sims Drugs is kind of split in half with today’s products and presentation on one side and yesterday’s atmosphere and appearance on the other. There’s the soda fountain shop along one wall.
Hugh Byron Sims’ dad bought the drug store in 1926. Sims worked from 1956 to 2003 there, with his dad for 24 of those years. “Well, 50 years ago these stools were still here. Still the same stools. The store burned down in 48 or 49 and they replaced everything in here except the soda fountain,” said Sims.
John McDaniel, who grew up in Nicholasville, remembers seeing a pharmacist at work when he was four or five and knew he wanted to one day work behind that big counter. He bought the drug store portion of the building more than a decade ago. McDaniel says the 1950’s motif has been in place since the fire about 70 years ago. “This was the style of pharmacies. Wood cabinetry, with the glass doors. The pharmacy set in the back. The black and white checkerboard floor. The one thing we don’t have in here is that tin punch ceiling,” said McDaniel
It’s been three years since Greg Scott bought the soda shop and pizzeria portions of the store. Customers sitting in booths with maybe a milk shake and a sandwich are among a long line of patrons. “These booths were installed in 1926. They fold down like the old movie seats do. In 1952, the rest of all these freezers were put in. All the ice cream service,” said Scott.
Born in Baltimore, Greg Scott lived in Lexington as a teen, but eventually became a chef and worked at Ritz Carlton hotels for 20 years all over the U.S. and Mexico. After a successful run with a country inn in Virginia, Scott retired, got bored, and got back into cooking, this time in the new old soda shop in Wilmore. Much of the food and drink fixing equipment looks vintage age including the coke machine. But it doesn’t work. “I looked on the internet trying to find the parts and to rebuild it would cost more than my house. So, I decided not to do it. Old coca cola stuff is really expensive,” laughed Scott.
Scott says he does “comfort food-modernized” using premium products in making milkshakes and pizza including the dough and sauce.
Pharmacist John McDaniel says some pharmacies and insurance companies have merged and can increase the challenge for independent drug stores. But he firmly believes there’s a place where pharmacist-customer relationships can flourish. “One of the best compliments I ever had, a guy was in here one day and he was talking to his wife and he said, ‘yeah, I’m down at John’s.’ He didn’t say he was at the drug store. He just said, ‘I’m at John’s’ and she knew where he was talking about,” noted McDaniel
McDaniel says the aim is to, quote, “treat everybody good and see what problem we can fix for them that day.”
One small portion of the drug store carries the look of a shoe store. While years ago, a drug store was just about filling prescriptions, McDaniel says reimbursements started narrowing and pharmacists started to look for new avenues of revenue. One way is diabetic shoes. “We have a certified fitter. She’ll fit you. We order the shoes, whatever style. They come in in about a week and you’ll come in and try them on and people love them,” explained McDaniel
Sims is certainly a neighborhood pharmacy. Many of its customers are regulars. Aureol says she’s in about once a week for knick knacks, something to eat, or pick up a prescription. She says Wilmore is a destination because the road into town ends at High Bridge at the Kentucky River. “A person has to really determine to go to Wilmore. Like you did. You heard about it and you came. It’s not on the way to anywhere. But, it’s full of character, style, and charm,” said Aureol.
And that might be three words to associate with Sims Drug Store, serving the Wilmore community in one form or another for almost 140 years.