Live and Let Live

ROCKWOOD, Tenn.—Downtown Rockwood has the feel of a black and white photograph that has been touched up with an airbrush, to give it the blush of healthy rouge in its cheeks.
The town has recovered nicely from a savage fire a few years ago that threatened to wipe out many of the downtown’s historic structures. Merchants and businesses have fancied up big and life is humming again.
In the middle of that devastation, surrounded by flames, was the Live and Let Live Drug Store, owned by the pretty, smart and dedicated Sherry Hill, a 40-something pharmacist.
A building beside the drug store was the source of the fire, it was determined. Later, fire experts discovered wires in a faulty lighting fixture fizzled and ignited. The drug store, which had just been remodeled, was heavily damaged by water and smoke, though the fire didn’t burn through.
Within four hours of the fire, Live and Let Live was in operation, using a building across the street, filling prescriptions for people via Sherry Hill’s cell phone. It was an amazing display of loyalty and courage, townspeople say.
Those who work for Hill say “she has done wonders for this town.”
Clients who walk through the doors aren’t seen as dollar bills with heads, arms and legs who need expensive drugs to stay alive, but as “patients, friends, family” who are ill and need help. Sherry Hill and Live and Let Live are there as part of the community.
Take Howard “Easy” Jarvis. He was born in Rockwood 83 years ago and has been coming to Live and Let Live since he was 12 years old. When he was younger, it was ice cream that drew him to the green marble soda fountain, the same one that graces the store today. “Easy” still grabs an occasional cone, but mostly he saunters through the doors for pills to keep his bones from rusting shut.
There are others, such as Homer Boles and big Jim O’Bannon who are store regulars. O’Bannon, who has a beard about as big as he is, sits in a chair and talks about farming and how “we need freezing weather to fertilize the ground. Freezing makes the ground crumble, softens it,” he says. “If you don’t get the freeze, the ground is like clay. Won’t grow.”
And there is Maurice Greif, 80. He’s the store’s volunteer, works four days a week to help out at the cash register and make one of the best and thickest chocolate milk shakes the old fashioned way, the way Geneva Martin made them here for years.
Greif ran Bernard’s Department Store with his wife, Carolyn Bernard, for years. Bernard’s was a Rockwood institution for 77 years, closing in 2000. Some months after his wife died, Greif walked into Live and Let Live, long-faced, sort of dragging himself about.
“Stop your moping and go to work. Answer that phone,” Sherry Hill said that day. She smiles. Maurice Greif smiles. They sort of adopted each other, they say. “I’m a surrogate grandfather (to her two sons, Haddon, 7, and Marcus, 5) and Designated Soda Jerk,” says Greif.
“He’s part of the family,” says Sherry Hill.
By now, the idea of Live and Let Live as a special place should be clear. There are nine staffers, including two other pharmacists and two student technicians working in the store. Sherry Hill calls them all “family.” And, you don’t see a frown in the place. Nothing but smiles and “can I help yous.”
Live and Let Live is one of those rare commodities today: an independent drug store, not connected with the giant pill factories. Most of her customers are called by their first names by everyone in the store.
Maurice knows them all, and most of their kids and grandkids. He also is the public address announcer for football and basketball games for area schools, a post he’s held for the past 51 years.
Hill says she isn’t quite sure how the store got its name, but thinks it may have originated with the National Association for Retail Drugs.
“Their slogan is ‘Live and Let Live,’” she says.
Well, there might be another answer as well. The quote, “Live and Let Live,” was penned by German playwright, Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805). The quote is found in his play, Wallenstein’s Camp. Schiller was one of Germany’s most significant playwrights, poets and philosophers. His idea was that conflicts of the human heart could be worked out through sheer willpower. He was a great believer in freedom and dignity of the human soul.
Skip forward to 1895 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Fellow by the name of Mark Morrison is thought to have begun the first Live and Let Live Drug Store. The drug store thrived until 1919 when it was sold to a New York chain outfit.
Hill says it is thought there are three Live and Let Live Drug Stores operating today: the one in Rockwood, one in Miami, Fla., and another somewhere in Texas.
“I have no idea where the name originated,” she says. “But, we are unique.”
That, the store is. Sherry Hill and her store stick to the basics: pills, the soda fountain, and some odds and ends, but nothing on the scale of the big chain drug stores. You won’t find such as furniture, toys, and row upon row of products in Live and Let Live. There are no rows.
The drug store is dominated by large picture windows in the front, the soda fountain and red counter stools, a couple of chairs and the pharmacy section where you’ll find either Sherry Hill, Bob Hicks Jr., or Susan Ficken dishing out pills.
You will also find school kids in the afternoon, coming in to slurp sodas and milkshakes while waiting on their moms to pick them up.
“Many parents have asked us to please keep the soda fountain open. Rockwood Middle School kids walk to the store after school. Their moms pick them up here. They thank us for keeping the soda fountain,” says Sherry Hill.
The Live and Let Live Drug Store building is one of the oldest businesses in Rockwood, she says. Sherry Hill has found records that indicate the building was around in the late 1800s. She isn’t certain who started the drug company, or what the building may have housed before.
“We believe a jewelry store was here,” she says.
After graduating from the University of Tennessee Pharmacy School, class of 1986, in Memphis (where she met her husband, Larry Hill, a native of Rockwood), she came to work for the Live and Let Live under pharmacist Terry Stephens. Larry Hill is also a pharmacist who owns Chase Drug Store in Harriman, Tenn., another independent.
“In 1989, Terry asked me if I wanted to buy him out. It was either that or go to one of the chain stores. This being one of the oldest buildings in town, I didn’t want to see that happen.”
The store is unique in other ways, as well. Sherry Hill created a drive through window by purchasing the former building lot that burned. The Live and Let Live also delivers drugs to homes within the city limits of Rockwood.
In the future, Sherry Hill says she hopes to start a diabetes health education class for the community, and perhaps a lifestyle class.
There isn’t much she can do, she says, about the price of drugs today, except buy in volume with other independent companies, push quality generic drugs, and keep her prices as low as possible.
“We try our best to assist senior patients, try to get as many drug samples as possible. It is not all about bottom line here,” she says with a bright smile.
“(Our profit) margins on prescription drugs aren’t that significant. I just don’t have the heart to up them that much.”
See, it really is Live and Let Live at Sherry Hill’s drug store in Rockwood.
Or, maybe another way to say it is, Dum vivimus, vivamus. While we live, let us live.


About tennwriter

FRED BROWN is a retired Senior Writer for The Knoxville News-Sentinel. He has been a journalist for 45 years and is a member of the Scripps Howard Hall of Fame. He is a recipient of the Malcolm Law Trophy for Feature Writing and in 1983 he was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship in Journalism to study at the University of Michigan. He has published both fiction and nonfiction. Brown has a B. A. Degree in English Literature from Presbyterian College. Other highlights of his career include: Books and Stories Authored: Marking Time: East Tennessee Historical Markers and the Stories Behind Them, published by The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, Tenn. 2005. Discovering October Roads: Fall Colors and Geology in Rural East Tennessee, published by The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, Tenn., 2001. Co-authored with Harry Moore. The Serpent Handlers: Three Families and Their Faith, published by John F. Blair Publishers, Winston-Salem, N.C., May, 2000. Co-authored with his wife, Jeanne McDonald. Growing Up Southern: How the South Shapes Writers, published by Emerald House/Blue Ridge Publishing, Fall, 1997. Co-authored with his wife, Jeanne McDonald "We Can Eat Sparrows," New Millennium Writings, Vol. 1, Issue 2, Fall & Winter, 1996. "The Devil's Roost," Voices From the Valley, Knoxville Writer's Guild anthology, 1994. Snake-Handling Believers, 2 chapters in book by Dr. Thomas Burton, University of Tennessee Press, 1993. History of Commission on Religion in Appalachia, 1992-93. "Seniors: Telling Tales to Life's Upperclassmen," Storytelling Magazine, Vol. 4, No. 4, fall 1992. Coker Creek, Crossroads to History, history of a mountain community and its people near Tennessee-Georgia border, 1991. "Character Building," Storytelling Magazine, Vol. 3, No. 4, fall 1991. The Faces of East Tennessee, a history of East Tennessee Counties, 1990. "Tillman Cadle, Memories of the Coalfields," Now and Then, The Appalachian Magazine, Center for Appalachian Studies, East Tennessee State University, Vol. 7, No. 7, fall 1990. Trader Jon, a biography; Castle Books, Memphis, 1986. "Mining Reform," Sierra, Vol. 71, No. 5, September/October 1986.
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