by Bill Batson
When Jeff Rucker bought Koblin’s in November 2013, many feared a Nyack tradition was coming to an end: the friendly neighborhood pharmacy. The expectation of having a pharmacist that knew your name and what ailed you goes back almost 150 years in this location.
But nearly a decade into Jeff’s tenure, several recent Facebook posts render the verdict: “We’re lucky to have him in our community!” one person wrote. “Worth every extra penny to use this wonderful local store and health care provider!” wrote another. And then there was: “Jeff has maintained the essence of Koblin’s and added his own skill and compassion.”
A couple weeks ago, Jeff made residents value his presence even more when Koblin’s began dispensing COVID-19 vaccines. “I’ve put about 200 shots in arms and will keep going until I run out of shots, or arms,” he said. In a time when everyone is nervous about their health, having a reliable, local pharmacy is a literal life saver.
The Origins of Koblin’s
In 1890, John D. Blauvelt relocated his Spring Valley apothecary to Nyack in an effort to create the most exclusive drug store in Rockland County. The interior looked more like a soda shop than a pharmacy and the staff more like waiters than healthcare workers.
David Koblin purchased the business from the Blauvelts in 1934 and continued filling the community’s prescriptions. His son, Jerry Koblin started as a stock runner, resupplying the shelves from the cavernous storage space in the basement as products were sold. After his graduation from the University of Connecticut and 6 years in the Air National Guard, which included a year and a half at Andrews Air Force base, Jerry returned to Nyack with his pharmacist’s license.
Jerry’s father was ambivalent about passing on the torch to his son. “He pleaded with me not to do this,” Jerry told me. His father warned him that the obligation was 7 days a week and 365 days a year. But Jerry looked at his father and saw a man that everybody liked and respected. “I never thought about doing anything else.” When Jerry sold Koblin’s he was 75 years old and worked that many hours per week.
Jeff Rucker Before Koblin’s
The Current Koblin’s owner, Jeff Rucker started in the business behind the counter as a tech at Walgreens. He worked the 2 – 10p night shifts, while pursuing a degree in Computer Science. After a while, the pharmacists must have seen that Jeff had the temperament for the trade and encouraged him to join the ranks. “I transferred in LIU and that was that.”
After almost 20 years at Walgreen’s, Jeff and some partners decided to buy a pharmacy. “The Walgreens that hired me in 1991 was not the Walgreen’s I left in 2009. You really can’t provide personal services when you are filling 800 scripts a day.”
As recent social media posts have observed, Jeff kept some of the staff that people have come to know over the decades like Manager Chuck Travers, Tom O’Malley both who have been on board for over 20 years, and Sam Jackson who was hired by David Koblin in the 1960s. Sam’s daughter Sharon works the counter.
The healthcare system that prompted Jerry’s father’s admonition was profoundly less complex and litigious than today’s. In 1970, people paid for their medicine out of pocket. There were no health insurance companies and no computerized records. Most prescriptions cost between $4 and $6 to fill. Jerry vividly remembers the first time a third party paid the cost of someone’s medication. Jeff mentions underpayments by third party insurers as a continued struggle for the independent pharmacy.
The name Koblin’s has brought comfort to anyone visiting downtown Nyack for decades. But Jeff has brought some nice neighborhood touches of his own. Each Halloween for the past few years, Jeff has replaced the “K” in the name with a “G,” welcoming the Halloween season shoppers to Goblin’s! “If I can find the ladder, the sign will return this year,” Jeff promises, between giving vaccinations. When asked what he has planned for the store in the future, he wryly observed, “More the same, less of the other. We’ll just keep taking care of people.”
That dose of humor and commitment sounds like just what the doctor ordered.
If you’d like to schedule a vaccination at Koblin’s, stop by 96 Main Street and inquire.
An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Nyack Sketch Log: Support the John Green House” © 2021 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more.