When Santa Monica Homeopathic Pharmacy opened its doors in 1944, World War II was still occurring overseas.
The war would end almost a year later, but the local family-owned pharmacy is still around providing residents with homeopathic remedies, integrative medicine and quality nutritional products six days a week from 9:30 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. on the corner of Seventh and Broadway.
To commemorate the establishment’s success and more than 75 years of business, dozens of longtime patients, elected representatives and local doctors packed the building Tuesday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring product demonstrations, heartwarming speeches and a rundown of the pharmacy’s history.
Originally founded by Norman and Mary Litvak as the Santa Monica Drug Company on Oct. 8, 1944, the Santa Monica Homeopathic Pharmacy has always sought to push the bounds of its field, homeopath Maggi Shanley said in a speech Tuesday, mentioning how the pharmacy stopped selling tobacco products and narcotics after a customer overdosed on prescription drugs. “It was a bold prediction at the time but Mary and Norman decided to go in a different direction (and) started to convert the pharmacy into a store with primarily natural remedy and homeopathics.”
Norman felt very strong about this decision, “and he stated: ‘I don’t care if serving alcohol makes money. I didn’t become a pharmacist to harm my customers,’” Shanley added. “I really thank Norman and Mary for having the vision way before anybody else did because now it’s popular but then it wasn’t.”
This dedication to a customer service style based on love and care is one reason why pharmacy is still going strong today, “and that (mentality) started with Mary and Norman, when they were the only ones in this pharmacy, and it continues on until this very day,” said Nancy Richeimer, a kinesiologist in the pharmacy.
While ownership has remained steady — with the business staying in the family for more than seven decades and nearly four generations — the items on the shelves have changed throughout the years.
Walk through the isles today and one will spot remedies for allergies and stress alongside CBD creams, protein powders and bottles donning names that resemble the scientific chemicals they’re comprised of.
“It’s not all homeopathic. That’s only a small piece of what we do,” said owner Steven Litvak, who described a number of clinically tested special formulas and supplements that can be found in the store.
“It’s not just a vitamin store. It’s not even close…” Litvak added, stating the store more closely resembles a clinic. “We get a lot of the tough cases that nobody knows what to do with. The doctors don’t know. Modern medicine has exhausted everything and nobody knows how to help, so usually, somebody sends them here.”
Once they arrive at the pharmacy, Litvak said he typically sits the patient down to discuss their symptoms, “and I’d say most often we can help. We do lose once in a while or send them off because we don’t want to risk somebody’s health, but I’d say most of the time we are able to help.”