Fremont County, Iowa

Penn Drug, Part II
by Fremont County Historical Society

View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
Week of November 29, 2010

Note: This View picks up the Penn Drug story from last week beginning in 1876 to the present day.

John Newton came to Sidney in the 1850s and opened Penn Drug in 1863. By June of 1876, Dr. Penn's eyesight was failing and he had to limit his practice to special cases and use of special and new medications. It was time to pass the store management to the next generation.

Dr Penn's oldest son. Alphonso Valdeze Penn, Sr. (Phon), fresh from Tabor College, took over the operation of the store in 1876. With the passage of the first Iowa Pharmacy Laws, about 1880 he became one of the first Iowa registered pharmacists. Everything was compounded to the specific order as written on the doctor's prescription. There were powders, elixirs, capsules, troches, etc, and finally, in the late 1890s, manufactured tablets and capsules. The drug store dealt with suppliers from Burlington, Iowa as there were none closer in the fledging towns of Council Bluffs and Omaha.

Now, in 2010, an important feature of Penn Drug is its soda fountain. The first one opened by the store was in the late 1890s. Phon's son Alphonso Valdeze Penn Jr.(Val) joined the firm in 1910.

During the 1920s the store was completely remodeled with swinging doors with colored glass, a new front with a set back entrance and the store name in colored glass. It had a new marble counter soda fountain. The store was keeping up with the new bank built next door.

Val assumed control of the pharmacy in 1925. The next generation became involved in 1949, when Val's son William A. Penn received his pharmacy degree from the University of Nebraska and began working with his father and mother, Christena E. Penn, who worked there many years.

In 1946, another new fountain was created that included a lunch section as well as an additional ice cream storage area. For the first time booths replaced the little round tables that had been a feature of the first soda fountain. William and his wife, Patricia, became owners in 1970. Both of them and their son W. Jeffrey were employees. The store was incorporated as "Consultant Pharmacists. Inc." Jeff returned after completing work for a master's degree from Indiana University to manage the store. In the 1990s he acquired most of the stock. of the company. Today he and pharmacist Jane Buck own the store. Jane operates the prescription room and Jeff manages the business. ?

The heart of the drugstore in 2010 remains as the prescription room. In the 1880s Dr. Penn knew how to get parts for covered wagons that needed to go west and settled up with patients at the end of the year with chickens, fresh vegetables, etc. (according to old books).

Beginning in the early 1900s, there have been gifts for every occasion, cards, and hundreds of over the counter drugs. A century and half ago the drugs were in big bottles with everything compounded. Now a few things are compounded under strict regulations. The hours are probably different, but Penn Drug is still open to carefully dispense medications for your good health.

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Page updated on May 10, 2017 by Karyn Techau