South Miami

Landmark South Miami store Allen’s to close pharmacy business

Al Collazo, owner of Allen's Drugs Home Medical Equipment pharmacy, poses for a portrait outside of the iconic Coral Gables store on Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014. The store’s diner and medical-supply businesses will remain open, but the pharmacy part of the business was sold to CVS.
Al Collazo, owner of Allen's Drugs Home Medical Equipment pharmacy, poses for a portrait outside of the iconic Coral Gables store on Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014. The store’s diner and medical-supply businesses will remain open, but the pharmacy part of the business was sold to CVS. FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

Chain drugstores have proliferated to the point that they seem to occupy almost every street corner, but for 60 years the independent Allen’s Drug Store endured on the corner of Bird and Red roads in South Miami.

That changed Tuesday when owner Al Collazo announced on the store’s Facebook page that the country’s second-largest pharmacy chain, CVS, had bought the small store’s prescription files.

Only Allen’s pharmacy is closing; the store’s diner and medical-supply businesses will remain open. CVS will serve Allen’s former pharmacy customers at a new store next door starting Sunday morning.

CVS said it is interviewing Allen’s pharmacy employees for possible positions with the chain.

“It is with a heavy heart that I announce the selling of our prescription files to CVS Pharmacy,” Collazo wrote in the Facebook post. “There are obvious reasons as well as trends in the business of pharmacy that led to this decision. At the end of the day, the opportunity was there, and I had to think what was best for my family.”

Since opening in 1954, the pharmacy has maintained the character of a traditional drugstore of the time. Patrons could come to Allen’s to get their watches fixed, have breakfast at the old-fashioned counter or send mail and packages from its post office counter. The drugstore, with its prominent neon red signage and checkered floors, became a staple of South Miami and neighboring Coral Gables.

Collazo, who has owned the pharmacy since 1984, says the “spirit” will not change under CVS Pharmacy. He will remain for the next few weeks as a consultant to CVS for the transition.

“I would like to thank my patient/clients, which have allowed me to serve them all these years,” Collazo wrote. “YOU were the reason for the past 30 years. You always brought out the best in my staff and me and for that I will be forever grateful.”

Customer Saul Tamarogo, 52, who grew up in Coral Gables, remembers coming to Allen’s for scrambled eggs and sausage, and was happy to hear that the diner would remain in business. “It’s one of the places that you can get the feeling of old Coral Gables.”

He said he was not surprised by news of the deal.

“With Walgreen’s across the street and CVS coming next door, I am surprised they have kept their pharmacy open,” he said.

But Tamarogo said he was glad the store would still be around.

“It’s an institution,” he said.

South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard agreed.

“It’s the only place you can go and get an old-fashioned milkshake,” he said. “It really feels like something out of the ’60s.”

Miami Herald staff writer Scott Andron contributed to this report.

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