Veazey Drug Company Collection
The Veazey Drug Company story begins with the arrival of Stephen F. Veazey in Oklahoma City from Gibson County, Tennessee in 1900. The company narrative maintains that Veazey came to town with $20 and learned the pharmacy business through a series of jobs in local drugstores. This may be true but, Veazey and his brother James appear to have had a grocery store back in Dyer, Tenn. so he wasn’t entirely unfamiliar with the retail business.
In 1906, Veazey partnered with Thomas Roach to buy the W. B. Armour drugstore at Robinson and California. With growing success, they moved to the southeast corner of Main and Harvey after purchasing the drug store of Julius Seaforth in 1908. Though they had incorporated as Security Drug Company, they changed the name to Roach & Veazey Drug Company the following year.
After about a decade together, Roach and Veazey parted ways and Stephen’s brother James came out from Tennessee to partner with his brother in a newer, larger store at 135-137 W Main. The new partners removed Roach’s name from the store and operated as Veazey Drug Company.
Veazey Drug prospered during the 1920s and by Stephen Veazey’s twentieth year as a druggist the brothers embarked on an aggressive expansion plan. Following the city’s residential settlement patterns, Veazey’s (as it was popularly referred to) opened eight new suburban stores in the two-year period from 1927-1929 and four more in the early 1930s. In 1938 they championed their fiercest rivals, the Crown Drug Store chain, and added the Crown stores to Veazey’s for a total of 21 stores.
The Veazey brothers continued their success until their deaths in 1955. Both brothers died within months of each other – Stephen in June and James in August. Stephen’s wife Violet purchased controlling interest in the company from Mrs. James Veazey; their son William became the vice president of the company. The remainder of the 1950s saw the chain remodel and reinvent itself, ultimately contracting to 17 stores. In March, 1962, the firm was sold to the Adams drug store chain of Rhode Island. Adams retained the Veazey name in the Oklahoma City area. Later that year they also purchased the smaller Katz Drug chain and converted those stores into Veazey stores. The original Veazey #1 moved across the street into the Katz downtown location at 200 W Main, site of the famous civil rights sit-ins of a few years earlier.
Veazey’s was the last big drug store in a downtown retail area ravaged by suburban shopping malls. The store finally locked its doors for the last time when its air conditioner gave out in 1972; it cost more to repair the cooling equipment than the store made in profit. At any rate the building was already scheduled for future demolition by the Urban Renewal Authority.
The last Veazey Drug closed at NW 63 and Portland in 1974. A handful of former Veazey store buildings are extant including the original #8 at 728 E Culbertson and the renumbered #8 at 2624 W Britton in the old Puddin’ Lane Shopping Center. Two notable examples are store #3 now occupied by James E. McNellie’s Public House in the restored Plaza Court building and #21, a former Crown Drug, at 4200 N Western has been occupied by VZD’s Restaurant and Club since 1976. The current tenants pay homage to the original occupants by featuring photographs and fixtures from the old drug store.
– Larry Johnson
Scanning by the RetroMetro OKC Resources Committee