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MEMPHIS (WMC TV) - Four generations have adored a 67-year-old treasure in Midtown.
In just six months, crime almost destroyed it.
THIS WEEK'S BIG TIP: Wiles-Smith Drug Store, 1635 Union Ave., Midtown Memphis, (901) 278-6416.
Wiles-Smith is Memphis's oldest independent drug store. It's the only remaining drug store/soda fountain combo in the city.
We're not talking about a Johnny Rockets-style, made-to-look-like-the-old-days fountain. Wiles-Smith's soda fountain is an ORIGINAL soda fountain. It's a veritable time capsule. A youngster walks inside and enjoys the same atmosphere her great-grandfather cherished.
Any given day at lunch, you'll see someone gulping one of the milkshakes like it is his last.
That's partly because it almost was.
Burglars have broken into the landmark four times in six months, presumably to get to the drugs in Dr. Charles Smith's pharmacy. Smith, who took over the drug store and added his name to it 40 years ago, has insurance, but c'mon -- there's not an insurance company in the world that will cover four burglary claims in half a year. Smith faced the possibility of shutting down the place.
Four generations of friends said, "Not on our watch."
"I couldn't wake up thinking it's not here," said Ham Smythe of Midtown.
Smythe and a few others opened a fund at Cadence Bank's Midtown location (1516 Union Avenue, checks payable to Wiles-Smith Drugstore Fund). They wrote checks. They delivered cash, like former Midtown neighbor Pat Reid, who up and dropped a $10 bill in Smith's unsuspecting hand as he opened his register.
"I raised six girls, and I mean every Christmas -- snow, rain or whatever -- we all marched down here and had hot chocolate," said a nostalgic Reid.
"I am very fond of the workers that are here, and Mr. Charlie, my heart goes out to him, and I don't ever want to see this place shut down," said Janet Mason of North Memphis.
Their love for Smith and for his treats are keeping the store open. Just like these last 67 years, Wiles-Smith Drug Store's going nowhere for its 68th.
"I am wealthy with friends," beamed Smith. "They're not customers. They're friends."
WHAT ANDY LIKES: Cherry Sundae, Chocolate Ice Cream Soda, Chicken Salad Sandwich.
For all of the Memphis-Shelby County restaurant scores from Dec. 14 through Dec. 27, click here.
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