By LYNN LOFTON
On March 31 an era ends in downtown Gulfport when Triplett-Day Drug Store closes its doors after 65 years of business. It’s not just the sale of prescription drugs, sundries and gifts but also the cafe and lunch counter that have endeared the store to customers. Located on the corner of Highway 49 and 14th Street, the store has been a popular gathering place for locals and visitors who’ve enjoyed breakfast featuring beignets and lunches starring daily specials, hamburgers and milkshakes.
Owner and pharmacist Jim Day, who celebrated his 90th birthday on March 14, says he will miss the daily interaction with customers and friends. His daughter, Poem Love, has worked in the store all her life. She explains the reasons behind the closure. “It’s my dad’s age and the ages of a lot of our long time patients; for their safety,” she said. “A lot of controlled substance prescriptions now can not be transferred. Dad has agreed that it’s best.”
Prescriptions on file and merchandise will be shifted to the family’s T-D Pharmacy in the Orange Grove area of Gulfport, which pharmacist Chris Danruether has been managing for many years. Love adds that with the death of her pharmacist brother, Dan Day, last year, there is no one in the family to take over the downtown store. “Dad and I will work at the Orange Grove store part time,” she said.
Looking around at the many old photos and artifacts in the store, Love said customers have asked for them. “After the family gets the ones they want, the rest will be donated to the new Gulfport Museum of History,” she said.
At this time there are no plans for the future of the large space the store occupies but the family plans to retain ownership.
Many Coast residents and former residents think of Triplett-Day Drug Store as a landmark in and its owner as an icon. Harry Bell, who owned Bell Travel Agency, has known Day since 1949 and calls him a hard worker. “He and Mr. Triplett had that building reconstructed and modernized in 1955,” Bell says.
Not much changed in the store after that time. For that reason people were drawn to its nostalgic look. A few scenes of a television movie, Astronauts’ Wives, that was set in the 1960s were shot there.
Gulfport realtor Lenny Sawyer started working at the store at age 14 stocking shelves. When he got his driver’s license at age 15, he became the delivery boy and helped at the soda fountain. “Mr. Day truly has been an inspiration to me and has helped hundreds of others,” he said on the occasion of Day’s 90th birthday. Sawyer recalls closing the store at 10:30 on Saturday nights. “Then we’d walk down the street to see the midnight movie at the Paramount. Those were good times.”
Day moved to Gulfport at age 22, right after graduation from Ole Miss, to work in Day’s Pharmacy that was owned by his uncle. “It was located across the street where P.J.’s Coffee shop is now. I’ve seen a lot of changes. Now most of the retail is gone. There used to be men’s and women’s clothing stores and much more downtown.”
Born in Inverness in the Mississippi Delta, Day grew up working in his father’s drug store. “That’s all I knew,” he says. “We sold a lot of ice cream and I did a lot of dipping; those were dipping days.”
He was the only one of the family’s four sons who became a pharmacist. One was a physician, one an engineer and one a banker. Day and his wife, Joan, are the parents of three sons Steve, Sam and Dan, in addition to their daughter, Poem.
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