New York City, NY

Ghost Signs of NYC: Avignone Pharmacy

Frank Mastropolo

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Frank Mastropolo

When Avignone Pharmacy closed in 2015, it was one of the oldest drug stores in New York City. The proudly anti-chain pharmacy was founded in 1832 as Stock Pharmacy. Italian immigrant Francis Avignone bought the business in 1898 and changed its name to Avignone Pharmacy. Its original location was 59 MacDougal Street, which was demolished in the 1930s when Houston Street was widened.

In 1929 Avignone moved the shop to 281 6th Avenue, a building the family erected for the pharmacy. Avignone’s son Carlo ran the business from 1956 until he sold it in 1974. The store became a fixture of the Greenwich Village community. Customers were greeted by a display of antiques that included pharmacy bottles, a first aid kit and prescription books from the days the store was on MacDougal Street.

Abe Lerner owned and operated Avignone for 30 years but was forced to close its doors in 2015 when the landlord tripled his rent. “I’ve spent half my life here,” Lerner told DNA Info. “I’ve known many of these people for 30 years; I’ve seen a lot of kids grow up. A lot of these people have become friends — they’re not just customers, they’re friends.”

The Avignone painted sign on the side of the building shares space with the Hygrade’s All-Beef Frankfurters ghost sign overlooking Sir Winston Churchill Square. Its CH-2 telephone prefix probably dates the ghost sign from the 1950s.

“The store has become a place where people just come in to say hello, not even to buy anything,” said Lerner. “They just come in to chat and then go out again. It’s been a neighborhood staple since 1929.”

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Mastropolo is the author of Fillmore East: The Venue That Changed Rock Music Forever and New York Groove: An Inside Look at the Stars, Shows, and Songs That Make New York Rock, selected by Best Classic Bands as two of the Best Music Books of 2021 and 2022. He is also the author of the What's Your Rock IQ? Trivia Quiz Book series; Ghost Signs: Clues to Downtown New York's Past, winner of the 2021 Independent Publishers Book Award; and Ghost Signs 2: Clues to Uptown New York's Past. Mastropolo is a photographer, and former ABC News 20/20 producer, winner of the Alfred I. DuPont–Columbia University silver baton. His photography is featured in the Bill Graham Rock & Roll Revolution exhibition.

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