‘Everything is because of the community,’ says pharmacist celebrating 50 years in South Norwood
Fifty years ago when Alan Kurtz took over Fishers Chemist in South Norwood, the pharmacist knew he would always want to be his own boss.
That is very much ringing true as he celebrates his store’s anniversary half a century later, not only as a business owner in Enmore Road, but as a loved figure in the community.
Mr Kurtz, 76, has watched generations of families grow and pass through Croydon, treating young children who now have offspring of their own.
randfather-of-seven Mr Kurtz studied in Nottingham before taking up an apprenticeship at a chemist’s in Marble Arch.
Working in central London branches, he served top celebrities including making large shots of an expensive hangover tonic, containing whiskey, called Amber Moon for a “well-known woman” at the time.
Alan Kurtz now owns two shops for this pharmacy in South Norwood
“I loved chemistry and I wanted to be my own boss and I thought the only way to do that was get a shop,” said Mr Kurtz, who lives with wife Barbara in Beckenham.
“So I thought that sounded pretty good to me. The place was very dilapidated but Mr Fisher seemed to know all his customers.”
The former owner in front of the Portland Road site and the pharmacy, used as consultation rooms, today
However, times have significantly changed since the 1960s when Mr Kurtz could make his own mixtures in the pharmacy.
Mr Kurtz has kept dozens of books where chemists at the pharmacy, which opened as Shaws in 1904 before becoming Fishers Chemist – now Fishers Pharmacy – would write exactly what they have mixed or prescribed.
He remembers: “People had confidence in you. You would be making stuff all day long.
“We made a special ointment called Fishers Cremeline Balm for nappy rash, Mr Fisher was very proud of this. He kept the formula in the safe and no one else but us was allowed to see it.
“After some customers moved to Scotland, they would request the balm and I’d send it to them.”
The nearby shops bombed during the Second World War and how they look today
In 2010 the pharmacy was given Chemist and Drugist Pharmacy Team of the Year award – a prestigious title based on the services he provides.
Mr Kurtz has received hundreds of ‘thank you’ cards from customers over the years for his exception service to customers.
“Everything is because of the community. I’ve had the most amazing support. I care about my customers. We have to provide the best possible service and the best possible care.”
The biggest challenge for Mr Kurtz is when the measurements were changed from apothecary to metric system in the 1960s.
Now he provides a number of clinics and services at the premises where his original Portland Road store.
Although he is well into retirement age, Mr Kurtz has no plans to stop yet.
John Hickman, a South Norwood historian, said: “He is very well-loved and respected in the community. I’ve spoken to older members of the community who love him. They say he’s a very genuine man”.