Wednesday, December 30, 2020

A Forest Hills Tradition at Traymore Chemists

By Michael Perlman

Mom & pop shops once lined the streets of Forest Hills, granting much personalization and ambiance, but today small businesses built on tradition are increasingly an endangered species. This is due to high rents, changing demographics, the pandemic, and the lack of interest in younger generations to acquire the business or a landlord or tenant’s disinterest in making it available for another party.

Among Forest Hills’ longest continuously operating family businesses is Traymore Chemists at 110-80 Queens Boulevard, which was owned by Kenneth Liebowitz for over four decades. “Growing up, I never fully appreciated how hard my father worked to support our family, but one thing I knew is that he was very proud of his business,” said Kew Gardens Hills resident David Liebowitz, who began running the business after his father retired a few years ago. Now he feels privileged for the opportunity to continue building upon his father’s service to the community and preserve a classic business.

Original owner Kenneth Liebowitz

Patrons enter a classic recessed storefront with an original wooden door, and encounter authentic wooden built-ins and “Prescriptions” stylistically painted on the wall behind a counter with a vintage torsion balance and a pharmacy class cup, contributing to the charm. It is Traymore Chemists’ mission to offer the most economical prices for vitamins, over-the-counter medications, DMV eye exams, diabetic stockings, walkers, wheelchairs, blood pressure monitors, knee and back braces, fragrances, etc. They offer senior care specialty services and free delivery. Staff members relate to a diverse community by their ability to speak Spanish and Greek.

Michael Perlman, Owner David Liebowitz, & District 29 City Council Candidate Michael Conigliaro

Liebowitz acquired a first-hand lesson over time, despite not working at Traymore Chemists early on. He explained, “My father took great pride in serving customers, but even more than that, he really made customers feel like family. When I say that, I am not exaggerating. He truly cared about people, and they loved him for it. Ask anyone who knew him, and they will tell you the same thing.”

“When I began to run the business, I hired new pharmacists in the mold of my father,” he said. They are Anna Antiaris and Kathy Legakis, who have also become much admired community personalities. He continued, “I can tell you 100 percent that they really are like my father, since they are so special in that same way. They have such pleasant personalities.”

Kenneth Liebowitz, Courtesy of David Liebowitz

A pharmacy existed on site prior to Traymore Chemists, which was known as Jules Landsberg Pharmacy in 1963 and possibly earlier. Patrons would dial BO 1-8440. Today, the phone number is consistent, but in a numerical form, 718-261-8440 to reach Liebowitz and his colleagues.

Such a business poses advantages over a large chain. Liebowitz emphasized how crucial it is for the community to support small businesses and their neighbors, especially during the pandemic. “We are all suffering due to Covid-19, and as a society, we need to help each other by supporting our local small businesses. In today’s world, society has become so emotionally distant, but people crave friendliness and warmth. Our goal is to make people feel good when walking into our pharmacy by knowing their name and treating them with dignity and respect.”

Recently, an elder patron needed assistance and called the shop, so Liebowitz fulfilled his mission to “save the day!” He explained, “I asked our delivery person to assist them. We have elderly customers that sometimes ask us to pick something up for them at the food store, so we do it for them. It is our pleasure, since we want to be known in our community as the place that everyone can turn to, and especially for seniors who need some extra care.”

“My father used to call his customers ‘friends and family,’ and that’s exactly what I want to continue,” said Liebowitz.

A similar version was published in Michael Perlman's Forest Hills Times column: