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Montauk Might Not Lose Its Only Pharmacy

Thu, 04/18/2024 - 11:26
Frank Calvo of Springs has been the pharmacist at White’s Drug and Department Store for 13 years and hopes to continue a pharmacy in Montauk.
Durell Godfrey

Hang tight, Montauk — yes, the White’s Drug and Department Store building has a new owner, but the potential loss of the hamlet’s only pharmacy is not a foregone conclusion.

That’s because the building’s new owner is a doctor himself who said he understands why pharmacies are important.

“I’d love to keep it as a pharmacy, if someone can find me a tenant, please,” Dr. Leon Kircik said by phone this week from Louisville, Ky., where he practices dermatology. “If a pharmacist comes and says, ‘I want to rent the place,’ be my guest. Or even a chain, like Walgreens, CVS, or Rite Aid, would be welcome because they have extensive services like clinics, some immediate care, and vaccinations.”

Dr. Kircik, who grew up in Queens and has been practicing since 1996, also owns a vacation house in Montauk, a community he says he loves and appreciates.

“I honestly don’t have specific plans for the building,” he said on Monday. “I bought it as a commercial property to rent out. It would be preferable for it to be a pharmacy, as long as the town permits it.”

On paper, it seems like an easy problem to solve. Dr. Kircik has a pharmacy space, and Frank Calvo, the pharmacist at White’s, wants to keep a pharmacy running year round. But somewhere along the way, between the sale of the building in December and an April 4 meeting of the East Hampton Town Board — at which Mr. Calvo appealed for help finding a new location for a pharmacy — there seems to have been a missed connection.

The building at 95 Carl Fisher Plaza changed hands on Dec. 14 for $3.7 million, from Daniel Rattiner to a limited liability company called Set Wave Properties, of which Dr. Kircik is an owner.

The current lease ends on Oct. 31. Mr. Calvo, a Springs resident who has been the pharmacist at White’s for the past 13 years, told the town board on April 4 that he has “scouted around all of downtown Montauk looking for a feasible space for a space for a pharmacy, and sadly, there is no other space anywhere. . . . Everything that is available is 1,000 square feet or less which doesn’t make it economically feasible for me to do business. . . . We’re going to run into a health care disaster as well as an economical disaster.”

With no pharmacy in Montauk and the closest one at the East Hampton Healthcare Foundation building, more people would be in “noncompliance,” meaning they would not be taking their prescribed medications, he said. “Therefore,” he said, there would be a corresponding “increase of disease, an increase of ambulances running, and 3,000 people running across the [Napeague] stretch going to the closest store in East Hampton.”

But as of Tuesday night, Mr. Calvo and Dr. Kircik had been unable to connect. And Mr. Calvo needs some more information, too, like how much rent it would cost to continue the White’s operation he had hoped to buy from its previous owner, and whether there would be upgrades to a building in need of some improvement.

“I’ve been actively going out looking at different spaces, but the rents are astronomical,” Mr. Calvo said on Tuesday, adding that a “reasonable” rent is around $4,000 per month. “Some landlords have approached me, but they’re still asking a premium rent. They are not coming down.”

The size of a space is also a consideration. Mr. Calvo told the town board that a space of about 1,500 square feet is ideal, going beyond New York State’s minimum of 350 square feet (with running water and a refrigerator) to also include retail space that would make the store financially viable.

“We have brand-new buildings that are 700 square feet, and they want $10,000 a month. It’s a little ridiculous. It would be ideal for an art studio or something like that,” Mr. Calvo said on Tuesday. “We rely on our front end, the stuffed animals and tchotchkes and T-shirts, to make a profit because the reimbursement on a pharmacy is nil.”

East Hampton Town Councilman Tom Flight, who lives in Montauk, received word Tuesday that Dr. Kircik is interested in maintaining the pharmacy, and called it “good news.” The board doesn’t issue permits or rent retail space to businesses, he said, “but are we able to help shake the trees and try to find some way to ensure we always have a pharmacy? Absolutely.”

A “last option,” Mr. Flight said, was exploring the idea of creating space at the Montauk Playhouse Community Center, where the addition of an aquatic center and community cultural space is currently under construction.

“We have to leave every option on the table to ensure we have the pharmacy in Montauk,” the councilman said. “If that is the existing pharmacist Frank staying on at White’s, great. If it’s Frank staying on in a different building, great. If it’s a new person doing a pharmacy, good. We have to have one . . . but planning a pharmacy out here can be complicated.”

In the meantime, Mr. Calvo is still looking at the options.

“Nothing has rung my bell as of yet,” he said. “I know there are lots of people who are hustling and looking and trying to remedy the situation.”



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