After 77 years the Anderson Drug Store in Cambridge closed its doors for the last time on February 11, 2010 as reported in the Isanti County News. Anderson Drug’s history came with a soda fountain which served limeades and ice cream sodas and lots of gossip and news. This is where locals came to hash out the remnants of the day and where high school kids had a job after school creating a great tradition for tales in years to come. People with the names of Chickie, Sonny, and Lou were heard called out when Don, Charlie, or Jim the three owners needed their help. The staff was always gracious and cheerful to all that came in for their wares or a tidbit of the local news.
Fridays were big for gathering information because that is when the farmers came in to do their shopping and swap stories about the crops, potato bugs, other farmers who had uneven planted rows, or they’d talk about a new piece of machinery that was purchased by a rogue farmer and then surmised how rich they were to purchase that. The Mayor of Cambridge would have his own time and stool at the counter to talk about his community insights to the cronies. State politicians would walk through and shake hands when they were campaigning, and if time permitted, sit at the soda fountain awhile to gather votes.
In 2006, Anderson Drug Store moved to a smaller more efficient store still downtown, but where there was no soda fountain to sit around. Charlie and Jim had sold it to an outside company; Don Anderson the founder had died years before this and they now wanted to retire. The new store seemed homey in the old Hardies building on the corner which they beautifully remodeled. They now had a drive up window courtesy of the former tenants. Because Kevin the Pharmacist was from Cambridge and Dave the Pharmacist Manager was a fine fit we all felt it was okay, local life was continuing.
It was nice going in there and seeing a smiling face you knew and you could still chat about the community. You see in Cambridge to be considered a true local you need 20 years under your belt to be taken seriously. The new owners by keeping all the same counter help made all the locals feel better that our community roots were intact even if the big box stores were crushing in all around us.
The big boss that bought Anderson Drug lives in Texas. He decided one day to sell. Done, finished, sold he gave the staff a 6 days’ notice. All prescriptions were sold and moved to Walgreens which is out of downtown close to the other big box stores. The newly remodeled building would now be put up for sale. No warning. We were told by a worker that there was no severance pay for the counter workers and techs many of them have worked there over 20 years. The worst of the closing was that it happened so fast and the community could not say goodbye. Big business once again wins with its huge profits gods being fed and its un-ceremonial dismissal of people.
For the community of Cambridge, Anderson Drug Store was a place where you got your news, where you saw friends, bought birthday cards, talked to local politicians and felt a part of a community. I guess everything has to move on with the times, but sometimes it painful for the soul of the community to lose part of its identity.