BY TEQUILA MINSKY | The faded “ghost sign” on the wall advertising Avignone Pharmacy (later Avignone Chemists) overlooks Sir Winston Churchill Square and can be read easily from Sixth Ave. It probably dates from the 1950s, according to the Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation blog.
Another testament to Avignone’s long history could be found inside — a massive old prescription book filled with script handwriting from the early 1900s. It was displayed in a red wagon in the window, a glimpse of history for passersby.
This past Saturday, Avignone’s last day of operation, owner Abe Lerner pointed out one prescription in the big book that was dated 1917.
Avignone, which operated continuously for more than 100 years, was at this last location, at 226 Bleecker St. / 281 Sixth Ave., since 1929. Before that, it was at 59 McDougal St., but had to move after that spot was slated to be demolished when Houston St. was widened. A little more than a year ago, it lost its pharmacy, when the pharmacy’s owner decided to relocate to the nearby CVS on Sixth Ave. But Avignone continued on as a health and beauty-care shop.
According to G.V.H.S.P.’s blog, Frank and Horatio Avignone built the two-story building on Bleecker St. for their pharmacy, and the building has not changed significantly since then. Italian-born Frank (Francis Titus) immigrated to the U.S. in 1890. His son Carlo took over the business in 1956, and in 1974 sold it to Dominic Grassi, whose son, Mike Grassi, assumed ownership in 1978, and worked there until 1991, when he was joined by Lerner.
More recently, the building was sold to Force Capital Management, which announced plans to triple the rent to $60,000 a month.
Villager Judyth Silverstein stopped by last Saturday and picked up a few final items, which were on sale so that they would “move.” Repeating the sentiments of most of her neighbors, she said, “I feel terrible, horrible. It’s an institution.” And, yes, she said, she did shop there, “enough to miss it.”