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Bigelow Drugs




414 Sixth Avenue just north of West 8th Street.










In 1838, when Van Buren was President, a small apothecary opened on Sixth Avenue just north of Clinton Place (now West 8th Street), and after it had changed hands a couple of times and moved two doors uptown, Clarence Otis Bigelow had established his "chemist's". The present building dates to 1902; the pharmacy still occasionally displays a 1905 ledger containing regular customer Mark Twain's name. Note the gas jets on the electric chandeliers: they still work, and in the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, they were turned on; Bigelow's remained open. NOTE: Bigelow's is unfriendly to photographers.
  The nation's oldest apothecary, Bigelow's has been a West Village 
mainstay for 160 years, providing prescriptions and healing remedies to 
countless dwellers. Originally located further south on Sixth Avenue, 
the store moved to its current location, at 414, at the turn of this 
century; and it was here that patrons like Mark Twain bought their 
toothpaste and later, John Belushi and Ed Koch would visit the soda 
fountain. "Bigelow was like Schwabs in Los Angeles explains owner Ian 
Ginsberg, evoking the West Coast drugstore where Lana Turner was 
supposedly discovered. "It was a hangout for people from all walks of 
life. There'd be society types next to Rockettes." Although the soda 
fountain was retired in 1984, Bigelow's is still a lively place with a 
diverse clientele, who now come there as much for the high-quality, 
hard-to-find beauty products and house-brand makeup line as for the 
other stuff.

Mr. Bigelow, 18, Cool Cat, Poor Mouser 
C, 0. Bigelow Chemists exudes old-fashioned charm with its gilded 
gas-burning chandeliers, oak 1838 wood shelving and hand made tiles. But one of 
the landmark pharmacy's most venerable fixtures is gone.
Mr. Bigelow, the store's resident cat fr more than 15 years. died two 
weeks ago. He was put to sleep at the age of 15 after developing a 
By all accounts, Mr. Bigelow was a special cat, good-natured but proud, 
loving but lordly. He occupied a special place in the hearts of Village 
residents since the day a soda jerk brought him around. The soda jerk 
died; Mr. Bigelow stayed on.
"Customers came in just to visit the cat," Timothy Cannon, 29, a clerk 
at the pharmacy, said. '*They'd talk to the cat, sometimes to 
unbearable degrees."
People would often come to the pharmacy. at 414 Avenue of the Americas, 
between Eighth and Ninth Streets, with treats, homecooked chicken or 
meat from a nearby delicatessen which added to Mr. Bigelow's ample 
girth. He weighed 18 pounds.
-people would ask if the cat was pregnant," Laurie Koflkr, a 
pharmacist, said, "We'd say, 'No, he's not pregnant' "
Mr. Bigelow's size was only part of what distinguished him.
While he never achieved the celebrity or commercial success of Garfield 
or Morns, he garnered a respectable position in the world of books by 
charming local writers.
He inspired a short story, "Asking Mr. Bigelow," by Susan Schwartz, 
which was published in "Cal Fanmstlc 111" (Daw Books. 1991), an 
anthology, and his picture graced the book "Cats at Work" (Abbeville 
Press, 1991). Mr. Bigelow's job, though, remains unclear
Mr Bigelow often licked the pharmacy's glass windows in the morning, 
sometimes for 40 minutes straight- A window cleaner. perhaps, but 
clearly, not an exterminator. "He wouldn't eat a mouse unless it was 
prepared by Balduccfs," Mr. Cannon said. "He was a real Garfield kind 
of cat - just really cool."
Mr. Bigelow presided over the pharmacy from his favorite perch, a 
wooden chair meant for customers. "They'd never ask him to move," Ian 
J. Ginsberg, an owner of the pharmacy, said. "He'd jump down sometimes 
and let them sit. If he liked them, he'd jump into their laps."
It seems Mr. Bigelow was more finicky about people than he was about 
food, and he seemed partial to the young.
"He was the best baby sitter;" Sara Arncll, a customer. said. "My kids 
played with him while I shopped. They would practically pick hlm up by 
the. tail and sit on him, and he wouldn't do anything,"
But, Ms. Kolllcr said Mr. Bigelow was not always that courteous to 
employees. She is more fond of his successor, an unnamed year-old cat 
adopted from the A.S.P.C.A. "The new cat," she says, "has a better