Not So Long Ago: Wisconsin and O St.

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This week for not so long ago, GM stops by Wisconsin and O. And the lesson here is that even when very little changes physically, a lot can change nonetheless.

Peoples Drug was founded in Washington in 1904. It grew over time to over 250 stores. Here’s a photo from the inside of the Peoples Drug that used to be at 31st and M:

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Peoples Drug was bought by Imasco, a massive Canadian company,  in 1984. So Peoples was no longer under local ownership by the time the 1993 photo was taken above. But the name survived, and that at least gave it the feeling of parochialness. The name even lasted a few years after the company’s purchase by CVS in 1990. But by the mid-90s the local name was stripped from all stores, and that’s what we have today.

GM never visited a Peoples Drug store, so he can’t compare the relative merits of the two stores. Do you longer term residents miss Peoples? GM always laments the loss of local franchises like Riggs or Chevy Chase Bank, so even lacking actual experience with Peoples, he’d rather have them back.

Here are the photos if the Flash isn’t working above:



Filed under Not So Long Ago

10 responses to “Not So Long Ago: Wisconsin and O St.

  1. People’s used to have a circular dining area with waitresses taking your order. I remember it was well populated for breakfasts and lunches. I always like their version of Sloppy Joe’s. Doc Dalinsk, who ran Georgetown Pharmacy (which was catty-corner from People’s) did not like this big outfit coming to Georgetown. Until People’s showed up, residents of Georgetown relied on Doc’s store, or Morgan’s over on P Street, and other smaller pharmacies. John Kennedy shopped at Doc’s Georgetown Pharmacy. So did Ben Bradlee, Herman Wouk, Art Buchwald, David Brinkley, and Pulitzer-prize winning cartoonist Herbblock. Richard Nixon shopped at People’s.

  2. Anonymous

    We still miss Peoples to the point that we’ll say, “I’m heading to Peoples. Need anything?”

  3. Randy Roffman

    Dumbarton Pharmacy was another popular place. It occupied the building right behind what is now ‘Five Guys’ burger joint, which itself used to be Au Pied Couchon at Wisconsin and Dumbarton Ave. ‘Doc’ Dalinsky’s place was the first cigar purveyor before Georgetown Tobacco opened. ‘Doc’ was alternately known as the ” The Mayor of Georgetown” and “Georgetown’s Sage.” All the newspapers and magazines were available there and he once had an ice cream and soda fountain. “Doc” loved children and dogs and always had a treat for each. For those adults in his retinue, there was always a joke told in his inimitable manner. What heady days those were…

  4. Anonymous, please: "Nemo"

    The “new” Peoples Drug on Wisconsin Avenue caused a great stir when it opened in the mid 60s (1966?) — very elegant. Another point in its favor was the fact that it was open 24/7, but the best part was the lunch counter, which had great greasy-spoon food, especially, as noted above, the sloppy joes.

  5. carol Joynt

    I miss Woolworth’s, too. And the game arcade on M Street. It was good because it gave little kids and teens a place to go.

  6. Charlie Eason

    Gosh, I grew up in Bethesda and attended school from K to 8th grade at Our Lady of Lourdes. The nuns would shepherd us home across the intersection on Wisconsin and East-West Highway/Old Georgetown Road after which we were on our own. And what was on that corner but Peoples Drug!

    In that era they had an attached restaurant. You could get a “Cherry Coke” which was made from a few shots of cherry syrup stirred into a Coke. In addition to the traditional counter they also had tables/booths where you could have a meal.

    And, of course, the drugstore operation had candy, etc. I can recall going there with a note from my mother to purchase cigarettes for her. So much changes in 50 years!

  7. Washington Cube

    Dave Roffman nailed it. It was amazing who you would see in that area. Art Buchwald got his cigars from Doc’s, and he’d be lighting up as soon as he was out the door. The luncheon counter made Peoples. Native Washingtonians lived on those swivel stools. There was a Peoples a block from the White House that was nice, too. Doc’s also stocked up on international tobaccos, and since Washington was such a cultural mixed bag, it was nice to see the beautifully packaged boxes in his window. But my God…so much of old Georgetown gone. I could prattle all day about what I miss.

  8. Brad Altman

    I remember that the People’s at Wisconsin and East-west-Old Georgetown Rd had candy bars priced 3 for 13 cents!

  9. Dr. Robert Craig Baum

    Lived in DC 1988-93. Can’t remember the name of the infamous burger joint on M street just a few blocks east of Wisconsin. It’s been on the tip of my tongue for years. One of the “hooks” was giving you crayons and deli style packing paper for table cloths. Please email:

    Help! 🙂

  10. Dr. Robert Craig Baum

    The answer is Hamburger Hamlet. Now a four restaurant mini-chain (Bethesda and Crystal City). Not the same experience, I see.

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