Thursday, April 1, 2021

618 Broadway - Broadway Pharmacy

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

Place: Broadway Pharmacy
Address: 618 Broadway (Map)
Constructed: 1923
Contractor: Unknown

This building has been a pharmacy for nearly 100 years. It's quite remarkable for such a small retail shop to have never changed uses in a century.

There was no urban development on this corner even as late as 1920. It was either part of the Spence Estate, as no buildings are listed on Young Street from Cornish to Broadway at the time, or it was the side yard or garden for 608 Broadway, the nearest numbered house.

That changed in 1923 with the construction of this building. Newspapers of the day covered "building permits" as a regular beat, but no mention of this one can be found. The contractor and owner is unknown.

The Golden family in the 1926 census

The first occupant of the building was the pharmacy of E. J. Golden.

Ernest Justin Golden was born in Weston, Ontario around 1877 and came to Winnipeg in the mid-1880s with his family.

According to the University of Manitoba booklet Names and addresses of graduates in Arts, Science, Law, Engineering, Agriculture, Medicine, Pharmacy, etc., he graduated with a BA in 1898, attaining the bronze medal in Mental and Moral Sciences.

In the 1900 street directory, when Golden would have been around 23, he can be found working for cigar manufacturer Richard and Co. and living at a boarding house at 186 Smith Street. In 1902, he is a "law student" at law firm Munson and Allan living at a boarding house at 47 Harriet Street.

In 1903, Golden began working at pharmacies. First, he was a clerk at John C. Gordon, 706 Main Street, then at Gordon Mitchell Drug Co. at 394 Main Street.

It was during his years at Gordon Mitchell that Golden decided to become a pharmacist and enrolled at the Manitoba College of Pharmacy. Established in 1902, the College was affiliated with the University of Manitoba. It was the first pharmacy education institution in Canada with a university affiliation.

Golden graduated from the College of Pharmacy in 1908 and likely relocated to Saskatchewan until around 1911. He returned in 1912 and worked as a druggist for the T. Eaton Co. and resided with his family 326 Broadway, then known as the Strathmore Apartments.

By 1921, Golden was managing a branch of Liggett's Drug Store, a chain of seven shops around the city.

December 12, 1923, Winnipeg Tribune

Golden struck out on his own at this location in 1923. It is not known if he had the store built or just leased it. The first mention of him being here is in a Brunswick Record and Phonograph Company ad from December 1923 listing the store as a dealer.

It is likely that the store operated from the rear section of 618 Broadway. (This may look like a later extension or a neighbouring building that 618 Broadway expanded into, but this is not the case.) 

Golden did not advertise the store, nor did he stay here long. Within a couple of years, he went to work for McCollough Drug Store, a chain of four stores. He retired in 1933 and eventually moved to Toronto where he died in 1962.

The store was taken over by Samuel N. Ringer of 22 -212 Langside Street and by May 1925 he was advertising it as "Broadway Pharmacy". Ringer graduated from the College of Pharmacy at the University of Manitoba in 1924.

Ads suggest that he added a soda fountain and also sold camera equipment. In the mid-1930s, a postal outlet opened in the store. Aside from being robbed occasionally, (see below), the store had a quiet existence.

Ringer expanded his business in 1932 by taking over Ellice Pharmacy at 307 Ellice Avenue, then opened Sterling Drugs in a custom renovated space in the Avenue Building at 269 Portage Avenue. Soon after, there was a location in the Mall Hotel and the Royal Drug Store at 432 Main was added a couple of years later.

Ringer dropped Broadway Pharmacy from his chain around 1944. By this time, his son Martin had joined him in business. The Ringer Drugs name lived on at 1151 Pembina Highway until the late 1980s.

The next proprietor was Harry A. Stitz

Stitz was born in Winnipeg and graduated from the University of Manitoba's College of Pharmacy in 1938. He opened Times Drugs at 572 Broadway in 1941 and took over Broadway Pharmacy in 1944.

At the time, he lived with wife, Jeanette, and their two sons at an apartment on Furby Street. He had two employees that first year at Broadway Pharmacy: Mae Horm and Leona Veer.

Stiz ran both pharmacies until around 1951 and then just Broadway Pharmacy. By this time, he had moved to 450 Montrose Avenue and employed Gordon Cohen, apprentice druggist, and clerks Mary Kowley, Lila Mink and Joyce Moore.

Sam Diamond in 1979, Winnipeg Tribune

Samuel Diamond joined Stitz in the business in 1960. The two already had a working relationship.

Born and raised in Aaran, SK, Diamond served in the RCAF during the Second World War. In 1946, he settled in Winnipeg and opened Times Soda Bar on Broadway. This was a neighbour of, or perhaps even located inside, Stitz's Times Drug Store. The proximity to Osborne Stadium made it a hangout for football players. (It is unclear if Diamond himself was a pharmacist. He is not listed in the History of Pharmacy... booklet.)

Diamond married Ruth in 1963 and they had three children.

Stitz eventually retired and when he died in 1980, Diamond was an honourary pallbearer at his funeral.

Diamond continued to run Broadway Pharmacy on his own. His obituary states: "The pharmacy became the focal point in the community and Dad relished the fact that he was known as 'the guy who could get you anything'. He never wanted to say no to any request."

Road repairs in 1979, Broadway Pharmacy on left

Diamond's association with football continued long after the stadium moved to Polo Park.

Broadway Pharmacy sold Bomber tickets through the 1960s and 1970s and at times was one of just three places in the city aside from the Stadium where you could get them, (the others being CBO at the Bay and Baldy Northcott's sporting goods store.) Diamond was also a member of the board of the Winnipeg Football Club from the late 1960s to early 1990s.

Jack Matheson, Winnipeg Tribune sports editor, wrote in an April 1978 column, "Sam Diamond, the best friend the Blue Bombers ever had, has always peddled season tickets from his drug store, Broadway Pharmacy, and this year he expects to sell 250, no problem."

In 1980, Diamond sold the business and opened Diamond Athletic Medical Supplies. He and Ruth eventually retired to their cottage on Lake Winnipeg.

Diamond was inducted into the Winnipeg Football Club Hall of Fame in 1998 as a builder and died in 2001.

Leroux, left, and Diamond in the 1980s. Courtesy: Broadway Pharmacy

Broadway Pharmacy was purchased by Larry Leroux in 1981.

Leroux was an avid hockey player from a small town near Kenora,Ontario. After graduating from the U of M's College of Pharmacy in 1977, he briefly worked in the Polo Park area but found himself drawn to the core area.

Leroux kept Broadway Pharmacy as a focal point in the community and it was quite a different community than some of his predecessors had known.

With the rise of post-war suburbs and car ownership becoming the norm, there was a population shift away from inner-city neighbourhoods. As "old timers" moved out or died off, their middle-class homes were bought up for cheap by investors as rental properties. Many were carved up into rooming houses.

Of particular concern to Leroux was the number of patients he saw that used non-potable alcohol in products like rubbing alcohol, hair spray, nail polish remover and Lysol, to get high. His interest turned to the retailers that were selling to product, some in bulk, to those who abused it.

Leroux spearhead the creation of the Manitoba Non-Potable Alcohol and. Inhalant Abuse Committee in 1990 that brought together various community and other organizations concerned about the issue. The committee did advocacy work and research on the problem which led to legislation that restricted the sale of such products.

October 20, 1991, Winnipeg Free Press

Though he lived in East Kildonan with his wife and children, Leroux volunteered his time on many community initiatives that worked to improve the West Broadway area.

In 1996, Leroux received a Centennial award from the Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association as someone "that has made a significant and lasting positive impact on the practice and/or profession of pharmacy."  At the 2009 Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association's annual banquet, Leroux received the Bowl of Hygeia Award "in appreciation of the time and personal sacrifice devoted by pharmacists to the welfare of their respective communities".

Leroux told the May 2009 edition of Communication, a publication of the Manitoba Society of Pharmacists, "I never prejudged anyone who walked into my pharmacy.... My patients were some of the nicest people you'd ever meet, we were good to them and they were good to us....West Broadway is a great community."

Leroux sold the store in May 2008 and retired back to the Kenora area.

Darren Murphy purchased Broadway Pharmacy from Leroux and the building from the son of Harry Stitz in 2008.

Murphy graduated from the U of M’s College of Pharmacy in 2007. He soon partnered with Floyd Lee, a 1980 grad of the U of M’s College of Pharmacy who had worked at Broadway Pharmacy for over a decade, and in 2019 with Oumad Khalek who had worked there for eight years.

Since that time, Murphy has added nine more stores, branding most of them under the Northway Pharmacy banner. Broadway Pharmacy is now known as Northway Pharmacy Broadway.

Like Leroux, Murphy received the Bowl of Hydregia Award in 2017 and the Pharmacy Business Leadership Award in 2020. Khalek received Pharmacists Manitoba's 2020 Friend of Pharmacy Award which is presented to a non-pharmacist who has contributed significantly to the success of the profession of pharmacy.

The store underwent major renovations in 2017 to modernize the exterior and interior, though the interior layout remains much the same as it always has.

In 2023, 618 Broadway will celebrate its 100th consecutive year as pharmacy!


The Young Street Facade

An interesting feature of this building is the Young Street façade at the rear of the store. This may look as if it was a later extension or that 618 Broadway took over a neighbouring building, but that does not seem to be the case.

City records indicate that no permit was ever granted for an extension for this building – the next one after the 1923 building permit was one for interior renovations in 1965.

In addition, street directories and various historic maps of the city show that no buildings stood on the east side of Young Street between Balmoral and Broadway until the Broadway Optimists Community Club opened there in the early 1950s.

This simply appears to be a separate entrance for the building, which makes sense as for most of its life there has been more than just a pharmacy operating from here. Golden had his record and phonograph shop. Ringer, Stitz and likely Diamond had their postal outlet and soda fountain. In the 1990s and 2000s there was a doctor’s office. 

This was likely a way to be allow both enterprises to operate with separate hours. The second floor portion at the rear likely was an office.

The Soda Fountain

February 18, 1926, The Manitoban

Because this has always been a small, neighbourhood pharmacy, there were very few ads and no newspaper features or "advertorials" to give a feel for what the drugstore was like in its early decades.   

A soda fountain was a feature of the store since at least Ringer's time as his earliest ads in 1926 mention it. This was likely at the rear part of the store along Young Street. The postal outlet he added was likely in this space as well.

August 5, 1939, Winnipeg Tribune

As the Ringer empire grew into more central locations like Portage Avenue and Main Street, their soda fountains were more like lunch counters. Carlton Drugs offered a "grill and tearoom" and Mall Drugs had "daily lunch specials". It is unclear if the Broadway Pharmacy soda fountain also became a grill.

Occasional classified ads appear for soda fountain staff even into the late 1940s, after Ringer, but never ads seeking cooks or waitresses.  Diamond’s earlier enterprise was more of a restaurant as he made a big part of his business feeding athletes from Osborne Stadium. It is unclear if he offered more than just milkshakes and soft drinks when he ran Broadway Pharmacy.

The 1933 Robbery
Robberies, including armed and sometimes violent holdups, have up been a fact of life for pharmacies ever since the first one opened in the city. Broadway Pharmacy has been held up many times.

This robbery in December 1933 was particularly notable because of the amount of cash the robbers made off with. That $800 is the equivalent of about $15,500 today! I assume the post office held such large sums due to money transfers, bill payments and the like. 

Also interesting to note from this article is that the store was just closing at midnight on a Wednesday night! Presumably this was because of the soda fountain. 

It was common in those days to mentioned people by name and address in a newspaper articles, which is great for researchers trying to piece together the history of individuals and businesses. Nowadays, a store manager is an unnamed "spokesperson” and things happen in the "600 block of Broadway", which will be useless for researchers in decades to come.  

A funny thing in this story, one that I have seen many times before, is that the employees who were held up are not only identified by name and address, but it is also made known that they got a good look at the crooks and will make good witnesses in a police lineup or trial.  I wonder of the men had many sleepless nights until the gang was caught a couple of weeks later?

The Floor

One thing left unchanged in the extensive remodelling the building underwent in 2017 is the original terrazzo floor. Oumad says when they purchased the building from the son of Harry Stitz, his one request was that they kept it intact as a nod to the building's past.

The stylized pestle and mortar that once graced the main entrance, but usually under floor mats, is now behind the counter as the front door was relocated to the west.

The Customers

If you want to know who some of Broadway Pharmacy's customers are, just check out their front counter. This ever-changing collage of images featuring customers past and present has been part of the store since the 1990s.

The Secret Door

During the 2017 renovations, a sealed up doorway was found in the east wall of the building leading into 616 Broadway - now Art City. It turns out that from the time of its construction in 1953 to about 1974, the neighbouring building was a clinic with three doctors. In 1970, a thief broke into the clinic so that he could try to smash through the wall into the pharmacy.

A 1975 article about a fire in the building described 616 as a clothing boutique up front and the warehouse for Broadway Pharmacy at the back. The door was likely sealed up in the 1980s as the building was a furniture  interiors store and, in 1986, Gio's bar.


For more West Broadway history, see A Divided Prairie Neighbourhood, Rising to the Occasion, and this West End Dumplings series.

You might also like my stories about other West Broadway buildings and businesses:
608 Broadway Former Broadway Neighbourhood Organization
618 Broadway Broadway Grocery
619 Broadway Pal's Grocery  
639 - 641 Broadway Wannebees Diner
685 Westminster Avenue Sherbrook Inn
164 Langside Street Hill Bros. Grocery


  1. Wow! I love learning about our city's past. This was a fantastic article. I had to go to this particular location once a few years ago and thought it looked pretty old. I wish I had known the history of it then. I would've taken the time to really take in my surroundings.

  2. My Grandmother is Joyce Moore (Kelunick), and my uncle happened upon this article mentioning her as one of the store’s clerks.
    She said she’s finally getting her 15 mins of fame!