The history of Decks drugstore began on March 7, 1884, when it was purchased by Lewis C. Deck and B.F. Clark. A few years later Lewis Deck became the sole proprietor. At this time the store sold drugs, groceries, and hardware. The store was dubbed the “white drugstore” as it was the only building front on Girard Square that was painted white. The second floor was used as a doctor’s office by Dr. George Hill and later by Dr. John Sharp.
This was the time of tonics, remedies, liniments, and cures. Pills were made by hand by carefully mixing the ingredients together, using a pill roller to form them into long pipes, then cutting the pipes into specific sizes and allowing them to dry before dispensing. No special training was required to be a pharmacist at that time. L.C Deck continued in the business until his death in 1918.
After the death of their father, Lewis W. Deck and Harry L. Deck continued with the family business. Lewis W. Deck became a registered pharmacist in 1917 after 2 years of college. Harry was an assistant pharmacist. Many changes took place during the years that Lewis “Bill” and Harry “Pete” operated the drugstore. No longer could the word ‘cure’ be used on labels, and they no longer made pills by hand. The most significant change was in late 1929 when they added the soda fountain. This was the main “hang out” on weekend nights for many teenagers and adults. Along with a variety of phosphates, cones, milkshakes, and different flavored hand-drawn sodas was a wide-range of “penny candy” to choose from. Harry L. Deck passed away in 1947 and Lewis W. Deck in 1960.
The brothers, Bob and Bill Deck, sons of Louis W. Deck and Naomi Deck, became the third-generation operators of the drugstore when they took over in 1960. Bob attended four years of college before becoming a pharmacist. Times certainly changed from their grandfather’s days. To start, Bob had to attend 4 years of college before becoming a registered pharmacist and Bill was an apprentice pharmacist, later becoming a pharmacy technician. There were stricter regulations on drugs and the introduction of generics just to name a few. Throughout all the changes, the charm of the drugstore remained. The familiar marble top soda fountain, the original hardwood floors and older shelving and showcases greeted the people.
After a lifetime of serving the Girard area, Bob and Bill decided to retire in 2001. This ended three generations and 117 years of the Deck family operating the drug store.
After three generations and 117 years of the Deck family operating the drugstore, it was time for new owners. Mike and Patty Makuta became the first owners that did not belong to the Deck Family. The Makuta’s purchased the drug store in July of 2001. Mike was a registered pharmacist and Patty managed the retail end of the business. After about 2 years, the Matuka’s closed the drug store. This was the first time in Girard’s history that Girard did not have a drug store.
In 2007 Bob and Renee Ernst purchased the drug store building and called their new business, Doc’s Soda Fountain. The Ernsts asked if the Deck brothers would be willing to move their pharmacy museum into the building with the soda fountain, and the brothers obliged. On display were old patient medicines and remedies, early equipment and fixtures, advertising, and many interesting items from years past and from when the drugstore began in 1884.
In December 2021, Steve and Casey Claypool purchased Doc's Soda Fountain and renamed the historic business, Docs Just Off 66. The business has been completely renovated and reopened on June 18, 2022. The nostalgic soda fountain is still in place, all the relics from the pharmacy and drug store have been put on display, and the new owners expanded the restaurant and added a full-service bar and gaming to this historic stop along Illinois Route 66. Docs Just Off 66 has successfully preserved the history and nostalgia of the longest operating business in Girard, Illinois.
As told by Bill & Bob Deck