WAKEFIELD –Walking into the Green Line Apothecary is a lot like stepping back in time, transporting customers back to the days of drug store soda fountains, doo-wop music and highly personalized customer service.
Husband and wife duo, Ken and Christina Procaccianti have been able to restore classic American drug store charm on Main Street in Wakefield, where they opened up shop three years ago. The intent was to bring back some of the joy of going to the pharmacy.
“We’re really trying to create a personal customer service experience,” Christina said. “We wanted to make it a much more pleasurable experience.”
Today, going to the pharmacy isn’t the pleasurable experience it used to be. Nobody likes it, Christina said. Many people walking through the door of the pharmacy are often sick or tired, and it can be a hassle to deal with money when what most people want to do is just get home as soon as they can.
“It’s not a pleasant experience – we’re trying to add some whimsy to that – make what was unpleasant for some people pleasurable again,” she said.
At the center of making trips to the pharmacy pleasurable again, Christina and Ken made the shop’s 1940s restored soda fountain a focal point. In those times, seeing a pharmacy without one was almost unheard of.
Soda, Christina said, has a medicinal root to it. From Coca-Cola to Dr. Pepper and orange soda, all were created by pharmacists, concocted as a way to make bitter medications more palatable. At the time, tonic water was believed to have medicinal benefits.
Ken and Christina spent months working out classic menu items like root beer floats and lime rickeys, or shakes and malts. Everything found behind the soda fountain counter is all natural, organic, and locally sourced if possible, according to Christina.
“Although it’s a sweet indulgence, we wanted to make it as wholesome of a treat as possible,” she said.
Creating the plans for their small business took months to put together, but Christina said this business has been a lifetime in the making. As the child of a greeting cards salesman, some of her first jobs were restocking the cards at independent drug stores with the change of every season.
“I grew up in and around these beautiful mom and pop stores and just fell in love with the environment,” she said. “Although I’ve had the pleasure of working in different aspects of the industry – I’ve worked at big chains, I’ve worked at big hospitals – my heart has always lied with independent pharmacies.”
“I’ve always felt that I was destined to do this,” Christina added.
She sees running the family business, something she puts her heart and soul into every day, as one of the most intimate things she could do.
That’s why the name of the apothecary holds a deep, heartfelt meaning for Christina and her family. It’s not simply the name of a subway line in Boston, but the love story of how she and her husband met and fell in love on the green line.
At the time they met, both Christina and Ken had been students at Northeastern University. Years later, the green line would be the spot that Ken proposed to her.
“It’s our own personal love story,” she said. “When you have a business like this where you pour your everything into it, I honestly couldn’t imagine anything more personal and more special in the way in which we met. There really couldn’t have ever been a name other than Greenline.”
In the back of the store, near the pharmacy’s prescription counter hangs a decommissioned Greenline subway sign, which Christina purchased at auction from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
Although they met in Boston, Christina and Ken eventually moved to Rhode Island to begin raising their family.
“We chose Wakefield for our pharmacy because we have a vested interest in this Main Street in this town,” she said. “This is where we live, our friends live here, our family lives here. We wanted to recreate the classic American drug store here in the town in which we live.”
In addition to serving the Wakefield community, however, Ken and Christina recently opened a second location on the East Side in Providence last month.
“The neighborhood has been extremely receptive and seem really excited to have us there,” Ken said.
While Christina received a degree in pharmacy and manages the day-to-day operations that go on behind the prescription counter, Ken, who studied philosophy and international relations, is her partner in everything else that happens at the apothecary.
Running a small, family business can be a struggle at times, Ken said, but one that’s highly rewarding.
“It’s like having another child,” Ken said. “All the highs of having children and all of the lows of having children, I think, are very similar to owning a business. You can’t turn off being a parent, and similarly, you can’t turn off being a small business owner. You’re always on duty.”
For those who may not live in the nearby area, Christina pointed out that the apothecary also offers free, statewide delivery in its 1949 Chevy panel van.
“You don’t go through the trouble of restoring a soda fountain from the 1940s and then put a Prius on the road,” she said.
Another point that Christina stressed is that it won’t cost people more to switch their prescriptions over to the Greenline Apothecary.
“There’s a misconception that it costs more to shop small, when in fact it’s quite the opposite,” she said.
The Apothecary takes all the same forms of insurance as any other pharmacy in Rhode Island, and customers’ normal co-pays won’t change at all. In some cases, according to Christina, the apothecary has lower cash prices for medications. All over the counter products are also price matched to Amazon, guaranteeing customers that they’re finding their best price.
Although Christina said she can be guilty of working long hours, she said it’s important for her children to be able to look up to her as a role model.
With three young daughters of her own now, ages 5, 7, and 10, Christina and Ken give them small things to do around the shop, like help to wipe down tables or put stock away. They try to include their daughters as much as possible, placing an emphasis on the fact that they’re truly a family-run business.
“They are our number one taste testers, though,” Christina added, laughing. “That is their main role. They do consume a lot of ice cream. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.”