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As the recent closing of Ritter’s Towne Pharmacy in DeLand illustrates, the pharmacy business is no stranger to change.

This isn’t all new; change happened decades ago, too. I remember how things changed for my father’s Orange Belt Pharmacy, as World War II ended and the 1950s approached.

After the bus station was separated from Orange Belt Pharmacy and moved to a new location, the drugstore business increased to the point where additional space was necessary.

The drugstore, complete with its soda fountain, was moved to a ground-floor location in the Whitehair Building (also called the Dreka Building) at the corner of Woodland Boulevard and New York Avenue. The pharmacy part of the ground floor fronted on East New York Avenue.

This was a great location; however, a few years later, when the lease came up for renewal, Dad was unable to negotiate an acceptable agreement. He proceeded to purchase the existing Dreka Theatre building next door to his current location.

Many will remember the Dreka Theatre, where, for a dime, you could spend Saturday afternoons watching Ken Maynard, Tom Mix and other heroes conquer the Wild West.

Sadly, the theater had closed, creating a real challenge to convert it for other uses. But my father began the task.

The entire front of the building was removed to facilitate dump trucks that hauled in fill dirt to level the area where the theater seats had been installed.

When completed, the project provided space for the drugstore and soda fountain, along with a rental unit that was to be occupied by Tony Visconti’s Barbershop. A strip of rental units was constructed along the rear of the building to be used by those in the medical field.

The soda-fountain business was leased to Tom Morris, who expanded the menu and provided a place where Jim Ed Summerhill, Clyde Lankford and other businessmen could spend their coffee breaks telling lies and solving the city’s most pressing problems.

The drugstore continued to flourish, but after 40-plus years of running a seven-day-a-week business, Dad sold Orange Belt Pharmacy so he could spend more time at his Samsula cattle ranch.

Under the expert guidance of the new owner, Buster Adams, the Orange Belt continued to grow, and a few years later Walgreens made an offer too good to refuse — thus ending the long story of this privately owned pharmacy.

Now the former Dreka Theatre is home to Collective C hurch, and is rentable as an event space for wedding receptions and the like.

DeLand is still serviced by a few privately owned pharmacies, along with several nationally recognized stand-alone pharmacies, and others affiliated with supermarkets.

— Heard is the retired owner of Dick Heard Insurance and Real Estate Inc. He has been married 69 years to the former Jean Alexander, and they have one daughter and two sons. Dick Heard’s civic involvement included serving as chairman of the West Volusia Hospital Authority, president of the DeLand Area Chamber of Commerce, president of the West Volusia Board of Realtors, and a director of First Community Bank.


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