Louisville, Kentucky (WDRB) – Wagner Pharmacy is celebrating a major milestone this year.
Sterling Riggs and Candice Cliff had breakfast with owner Lee Wagner to talk about the Louisville landmark’s 100th birthday. You can read their conversation below:
Lee Wagner: It’s crazy to think it’s been 100 years here. And I remember the stories my father told me, my grandfather started working as a delivery boy at Hagen Pharmacy and then how the whole property grew up. He fell in love with medicine and working for Mr. Hagen. And then when Mr. Hagen died in 1922, my grandfather took a loan from my great-aunt and borrowed money to buy what is now Wagner’s apothecary. And here we are, 100 years later.
Candice Clift: Was it always a pharmacy and a restaurant, or did the restaurant come late?
Lee Wagner: It started out as just a pharmacy. And then they had a soda fountain, and they had two seats, so they had two, and then they went 4-6-8. And then finally, I think it was in the ’60s when they expanded it to the 20 seater fountain. At the moment when we moved, we have 10 now, but we kept the same tables, the same Formica worktop, and of course the same grill. We have a lot of carbonated water fountains, stuff that’s been around since the last renovation in the late fifties and early sixties.
Sterling Riggs: But what do you say to people who say you need a bigger build, you need to make these changes, you need to update this?
Lee Wagner: You know, you have to do minute updates and do little things. But the most important thing here is nostalgia. And that’s what people come here to see. So, you know, you’re walking a fine line with it.
Candice Clift: I think it’s interesting that this place is kind of a tourist attraction and just a regular restaurant for many of the people who work there. Those two things kind of collide, I think, every day here.
Lee Wagner: We’re kind of a home away from home for a lot of knights. So, they all come here and eat, and then the regulars and knights talk together and talk. It’s almost like cheers, where I mean really, everyone I know sounds like a cliche, but everyone really knows each other’s name after you know a few times eating here.
Sterling Riggs: What did you learn from your father… something that’s really still on my mind?
Lee Wagner: Only, you know, being an honest, fair and community person, you know, trying to be someone like the people who are here, that our team can count on and knowing that despite the tough times and tough situations that we’re in, you’re going to be here.
Sterling Riggs: Lots of characters pass through these doors. What’s the craziest thing that’s happened in Wagner? Or perhaps a longer anecdote.
Lee Wagner: I’ll tell you one I thought was funny. And of course, it’s Kaiser with the racehorse ointment, and Keith kept rubbing it into the camera man’s foot, and it kept working.
It cracked me up, and made all the customers here laugh. But I have to give credit to Keith. Racehorse ointment sales hit the ceiling the following week. I’m serious. They went through the roof. So, we owe it to him.
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