Shumate’s Pharmacies

The historic Ortman-Shumate house at 1901 Scott Street in the 1880s.

The original Ortman-Shumate house and garden at 1901 Scott Street in the 1880s.

By JOAN HOCKADAY

On the corner of Fillmore and Jackson Streets in San Francisco, the Shumate’s Pharmacy legacy is embedded in tiles in the doorway of a storefront now vacant — last home to Tully’s coffee shop. It is one of the final reminders of a drugstore business that grew rapidly after the 1906 earthquake and thrived through World War I and the 1920s.

“Father was only a struggling doctor, so to speak, a physician, and owned one drugstore,” at Sutter and Divisadero, Dr. Albert Shumate told Bancroft Library oral historians 30 years ago. “The fire and earthquake in a way aided him. His store was not touched. Some of the drugstores downtown that were well established were destroyed. Some of them didn’t rebuild. Father said the earthquake really helped him financially because Divisadero Street, like Fillmore, became quite a center of the city after the earthquake.”

Tile at Fillmore and Jackson.

A fleet of delivery trucks were parked and serviced in a garage built behind the family home at 1901 Scott Street.

Shumate’s early stores resisted the temptation to add popular soda fountains, leaving that embellishment to its competitor, Owl Drugs. Through the years there were about 30 Shumate pharmacies throughout San Francisco, with their distinctive tiles marking their spots.

The Depression reduced the number of Shumate drugstores, but traces of the family pharmacies are still scattered around the city.

“One of the first stores, I think it might have been number two, was at Haight and Masonic,” Shumate said in his Bancroft Library oral history. “Somewhere I have this clipping that says ‘Does Shumate think he is going to be selling to the rabbits?’ — because there were so few people to draw from when the store was first established.”

Shumate recalled that store later became the hub of hippie culture, often in the news, after it was renamed the Buena Vista Pharmacy when the family sold it to a former employee.

Read more:
Great Old Houses: 1901 Scott
An old garden gets a new life

A windmill and well watered a growing garden at 1901 Scott circa 1900.

The windmill and well provided water for a growing garden at 1901 Scott circa 1900.

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