Barry Deutschman, owner/pharmacist of Morgan’s Pharmacy at 30th & P Sts., NW., has seen his professional life in Georgetown come full circle since beginning his association with this independent neighborhood pharmacy as a part-time weekend pharmacist in the 1970s. Since purchasing the 98-year-old pharmacy in 1992, D.C. native Deutschman has retained its historic tradition and much of its appearance while updating its product line to meet the health care needs of a modern audience. An integral part of the East Village since 1912 when rumor has it a young woman married one of the original Morgan brothers so that she could obtain free ice cream from the soda fountain, modern-day Morgans serves both young families and seniors. One thing that has not changed is the pharmacy’s emphasis on personal service and strong communication with customers. “What makes people comfortable, especially when they are ill, is when they can come into the pharmacy and be addressed by their first name. Everyone is a person here, and no one is a number,” Deutschman emphasizes. The good news for Georgetown is that Deutschman has no plans to retire. “I still look forward to coming to work every day. We certainly want to carry on the tradition of Morgan Pharmacy. It is very important to us. We know how important it is to the neighborhood. We really thank the neighborhood for continuing to support us. The key to our success is the fact that it is a two-way street, and we are very thankful for what our neighbors give back to us.”
Betty van Iersel: This is Betty van Iersel. The date is Wednesday, May 26, 2010. I’m here at Morgan’s Pharmacy at 30th and P, NW in Georgetown. And I am interviewing the owner/pharmacist, Barry Deutschman. Barry, thank you very much for agreeing to do this.
Barry Deutschman: You’re very welcome.
Betty: How long have you been affiliated with Morgan’s?
Barry: I purchased Morgan’s in May of 1992. I did work here part-time in the ’70s for about a year and a half, every other Saturday and Sunday. So I was very familiar with the store and with the customer base, and the neighborhood. And I look forward to many more years of ownership of Morgan Pharmacy.
Betty: The pharmacy itself is over 100 years old. Is that correct? The original owners were the Morgan brothers?
Barry: That is correct. It’s almost 100 years old. We thought it was older, actually, but according to the history which we just recently received from the ancestors of the original Morgan brothers, it says that they opened it in 1912. So that’s probably the most accurate date that we have at this point.
Betty: Did you purchase it directly from them or were there interim owners?
Barry: No, there were interim owners. And as I can gather, I was probably the fourth or fifth owner. I purchased it, again, in 1992.
Betty: Were you born and or raised in Georgetown? What’s your affiliation with Georgetown? I know you had said you had worked here part-time.
Barry: I worked here because I wanted to work in an independent pharmacy. And it just so happened that a position was available here for a part-time pharmacist. So that’s how I came to Georgetown. But I was raised and grew up in the city. I went to DC public schools and I also attended George Washington University School of Pharmacy. So I was very familiar with this area, as well as the Foggy Bottom area.
Betty: When did you graduate from pharmacy school?
Barry: In 1958.
Betty: Did you work at other pharmacies in the city, then, before purchasing Morgan’s?
Barry: While I was going to pharmacy school, I worked for a small chain of independent pharmacies. Actually, when I went to work for them they only had one pharmacy called B. Alex Medical Arts Pharmacy. And that’s where I learned to do compounding. Because in those days every external product, topical product, creams, ointments, lotions, there was nothing commercially available. And we used to make them all. We also used to punch capsules and tablets. And in fact, I ran their tablet machine and their capsule machine to make up large amounts of capsules and tablets which doctors would then prescribe for various reasons. It was somewhere in between what used to be a pharmacy in terms where everything was made by the pharmacist and gradually going into what the pharmacy is today, which is most everything is already pre‑packaged from the manufacturer.
Betty: Where do you live now?
Barry: I live in Bethesda right behind Suburban Hospital.
Betty: We were talking before our official interview about the fact that Morgan’s was and is a neighborhood pharmacy, and can you talk a little bit more about that and maybe about any changes and or the continuity that you’ve seen over the years?
Barry: Well obviously, our goal is to keep the continuity. Even with our growth and the number of prescriptions that we do, and the increased business that we do, we still want to keep it as a neighborhood pharmacy, as a place to go when people need our services. Service is a big part of our organizational commitment. What makes people comfortable, especially when they are ill, is when they can come into the pharmacy and be addressed by their first name.
Betty: That’s right.
Barry: The fact that we know, before they even ask us about their refills on their medications. We know and anticipate what their demands are, in terms of what they need. Between that and the delivery services that we offer, and the counseling that we offer, and our involvement in the community is very important to us and this is what we want to maintain.
Betty: Yeah. It means the world, the personal service, that’s for sure. The type of community, when you mentioned community service, what specifically can you point to there?
Barry: Well, we try to contribute to whatever organizational fundraising, what goes on in our community. [Phone rings]
Barry: We try to be involved in supporting the various associations. We feel that is very important to continue our livelihood here and to be part of the community. We want to be part of the community. I don’t want to be considered a commuter, who comes into the city, extracts the best offer, and leaves.
Betty: [laughs] That’s too bad they don’t have more like you. What physical changes if any, have you made in Morgan’s since you mentioned painting? What physical changes have you made in the exterior and interior since you purchased it?
Barry: Well, I had mentioned the painting to you, because for so many years the color outside was always black. It had a very Dickinsonian look to it, which was very charming in a way, but with everything going green these days, we painted the outside of the store green. As far as the inside of the store, a lot of the fixtures here go back to the ’20s, so we left them intact.
Betty: Yeah. That’s wonderful.
Barry: What we did was we ripped out the center of the store. We modernized that to make merchandise more accessible and to make traffic move more easily, but the old feel is still here, and the old smells are still here.
Betty: They are, and that is what I love about coming in here. What about‑‑ again, we were talking briefly before the recording. Again, comparing it to its earlier days or when you purchased it in the ’70s, what changes have you made in the product lines?
Barry: Well, I didn’t purchase it in the ’70s. I purchased it in ’92.
Betty: In the ’90s. I am sorry, but since you have owned it, since you have been associated with it.
Barry: Product lines; well, obviously our inventory has been increased dramatically, because of the introduction of new drugs, talking about prescription drugs. As far as the over‑the‑counter merchandise is concerned, we still specialize in what I call a ’boutique’ pharmacy, by having lots of products that you don’t normally find in most other retail establishments. These products make us a destination for a lot of people, because they know that we carry them. A lot of them are imported. A lot of them are herbal related now. A lot of them are homeopathic. A lot of natural body products.
We always try to stay ahead to introduce new products to our customers, that we feel that they will like and enjoy using. Obviously, in any kind of a business, we always try to act instead of react and try to stay a step ahead of the crew to find new products and introduce them, and to try to give us that competitive edge.
Betty: Talking about the neighborhood itself, within Georgetown, I think obviously, one of the terms of living here is the sense of history, and continuity, and tradition, but again can you comment on that over the years that you have been here in the last three or four years. What are some similarities, and any changes that you have noted in the neighborhood and/or in your customer base?
Barry: Well, it’s interesting. The customer base obviously keeps growing, because word of mouth helps us a great deal. Once they find out about us, and once the customer comes in and experiences what we have to offer, they stay with us. They come back, and they become part of our customer base, and they in turn, through word of mouth bring us new customers. What I have noticed over the years, since ’92‑‑I can’t really remember too good in terms of the ’70s, because I was only here part‑time, every other weekend.
Barry: But just in terms of being here, it is interesting to see generationally how our customer base is getting younger, and younger, and younger, because there are more babies now.
Betty: There really are in Georgetown. Lots of strollers.
Barry: Yeah. Quite a bit of babies, and then of course we have normal passage of life that we deal with. We have become so close to our customers that when they do pass, we take it very personally. It bothers us to a great deal, because of the relationships that we have developed over the years. Everyone is a person here, and no one is a number. We try to treat everybody with dignity and understanding, especially those who all of a sudden are fine one day and get diagnosed with a terminal disease the next day.
Barry: So, it is part of what we want to be part of, in terms of helping them get through these crises.
Betty: Yeah. It just means so much, I think in this impersonal era. It means the world to people.
Barry: Well, unfortunately in today’s society there is such a lack of communication between people. When you look at people, people don’t talk to each other anymore. People don’t write letters anymore. People are non‑confrontational. They are afraid of confrontation. We’re not that way. We are all built from a different mold here. I am very proud of the fact that our staff, everyone has been here a long time, we don’t have turnover here. Part of my philosophy as a businessman is this isn’t all about me. This is about us, our Morgan family within the walls of Morgan Pharmacy, because that is important to us, to our success is the continuity.
We spoke about continuity, and the continuity with our patient base, and the understanding of how things are run here, and enabling us to confront a future more easily, then being concerned about having health issues. So, that is very important to us.
Betty: How many other pharmacists do you employ? How many other pharmacists are here besides yourself?
Barry: I would say one and a half.
Betty: One and a half. And your total staff?
Barry: Well, the half is only here as a fill‑in, so it would be five. I do use delivery services, but they are not staff related. We do several deliveries everyday, anywhere from 30‑60 deliveries a day.
Betty: Wow! That many?
Barry: We use three different services for that purpose.
Betty: Well, that certainly gives you a competitive edge. I mean, now nobody else does deliveries.
Barry: Well, there used to be a time when a pharmacy built itself with the slogan of ‘free delivery.’ It would be nice if we could still do that, but the profit isn’t there anymore for free delivery, especially with 90% of your patients being third party. We have to charge for delivery, because delivery is expensive. Actually, we lose money on every delivery, but we take a cost into effect and it is actually less expensive for us to hire delivery service, then to go buy cars and have employees doing the deliveries. So, these are business decisions that we make, but the fact that we do deliver is very important to a good portion of our customers.
Betty: Georgetown as a whole, again as you have noted, it is getting younger, lots of babies, lots of younger families moving back into the city as a whole, and certainly in Georgetown. What other changes have you noticed?
Barry: Well, one of the big changes is that pharmacists are now allowed to give immunizations in the District of Columbia. So, this is another service we can give to the community. We are allowed now to give not only flu shots, but we can give hepatitis. We can give tetanus. We can give Zostavax, which is a shot for shingles, and we can give the HPV shot, which is the shot for young women to‑‑the Human Papilloma Virus shot. So, this is an added feature that we are able to do now, and service the community. And of course the compounding. We joined an association last year, Pharmaceutical Compounding Centers of America, I believe it is, PCCA. And, we went to school down there, and we learned the intricacies of modern day compounding to enable us to come up with various formulations requested by those physicians who are specializing in certain therapies.
Betty: What is on the horizon for Morgan’s? What do you see in the future? You said, you want to keep it going, and keep the neighborhood the tradition of neighborhood service. What else?
Barry: I have no intention of retiring.
Betty: Good. That is good news for us.
Barry: I am very fortunate. I love coming to work everyday. I feel that I am probably the luckiest person, one of the luckiest persons in the world, who at this age to want to work, to want to continue to love coming into work. I enjoy what I do. I enjoy the people that are here, the staff. I enjoy the customers, who to me‑‑this is a Yiddish expression, a ‘kibitz’. When you kibitz with somebody, “Johnny, it is a big kibitz, ” because I love to just talk to people, and people love to talk and want to be heard. [Phone Rings]
One of the things that I found out is when people age, and they lose a loved one or they don’t share their live with anybody anymore, they sure share it with their pharmacist.
Betty: Yeah. Their pharmacist and their hairdresser probably.
Betty: They probably know more about peoples personal lives, then anybody else.
Barry: Yeah. They want to talk, and we find the time to listen. God Bless my father‑in‑law, who passed away a number of years ago, but he always said one thing. He said, “You learn more when you listen, then when you talk, ” and when we listen, we find that we have been a big help.
Betty: That’s for sure. Excellent. Well, I want to thank you for taking time this morning, Barry. You have been very generous with your time. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Barry: I don’t know, anymore history that you might want. As I said, I got the history fairly recently from the granddaughters of the original Morgan brothers. They opened this store in 1912. They sold it in the ’40s. Then they opened another store interestingly enough, but on Wisconsin Avenue and Veazie Street, where the old Armand Chicago Pizzeria was.
Betty: Oh, yeah.
Barry: They owned two drug stores for a short period of time. In those days, they had a soda fountain. One of stories handed down was my father told me that if a customer couldn’t afford a prescription, his father would just give it away. Of course, those were the days when the prescription was $1.99. Today, you couldn’t give anything away. [laughs] And, my grandmother told me that people joked with her, because when she married Malcolm, one of the original Morgan brothers, because of her sweet tooth, so she could have ice cream all the time at the soda fountain.
Betty: That sounds like a good reason. That is another reason to get married, free ice cream.
Barry: I thought that was a cute story.
Betty: I love it.
Barry: But other than that, we certainly want to carry on the tradition of Morgan Pharmacy. It is very important to us. We know how important it is to the neighborhood. We really thank the neighborhood for wanting to continue to support us. That is the key to our success is the fact that it is a two‑way street, and we are very thankful for what they give back to us, in terms of keeping us around.
Betty: Well, we’re glad that you are here and don’t have any plans to go anywhere, Barry. Thanks again for your time today.
Barry: You’re very, very welcome.