Stanley George mixes up a libation (Photograph: Krista Schlueter)
This is the first in a series about guys who are changing the nature of work.
“How are you feeling today?” A hundred years ago, that’s how a pharmacist might engage someone walking into his store. The ensuing conversation would enable him to rustle up a bespoke remedy for what ailed you. An invigorating soda, perhaps—one that would be infused with tinctures of caffeine, cocaine, tobacco or acid phosphate, then flavored with fruit syrups and bitters. (Famously, Coca-Cola began life as a headache treatment, Pepsi as a digestive aid.) It’s not surprising that the soda fountain became a social hub (albeit one populated by jittery, fidgety customers).
Today, if you’ve ever implored a dead-eyed drugstore employee to help you find something to stanch bleeding or mollify your spasmodic bowels lest you literally shit your brains out, you know that this friendly, personalized experience is gone forever. Unless you happen into Stanley’s Pharmacy on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
He’s the guy to see when people want to feel better—even if they feel pretty good in the first place.
The space is colorful, bright and fun. Patrons and patients are propped up at the counter, sipping unpasteurized coconut water and effervescent fortifiers, clearly in no hurry to leave. Maybe the sexy bossa nova of Astrud Gilberto is playing, maybe a deep cut from Mötley Crüe’s 1981 debut album, Too Fast For Love. There are two types of kombucha on tap and espresso is being slung. Passers by are looking in and waving. CVS it ain’t.
The eponymous Stanley George is behind the counter; his uniform includes white skinny jeans and a white safari jacket modeled on Roger Moore’s in The Man with the Golden Gun. (Stanley is a self-professed 007 fanatic). He’ll fill your prescription or serve up a custom drink to combat a hangover, stomachache or maddening two-day eyelid twitch. (Different combinations of sodas, tinctures, teas and juices give Stanley an almost infinite remedial arsenal.)
With most remedies behind the counter, Stanley’s is designed to be a social experience (Photograph: Krista Schlueter)
The wavy-haired 40-year-old—whose parents emigrated to the US from southern India—comes from a long line of shamans and medical professionals. His folks, whom he lovingly refers to as “bible-banging evangelical Christians,” gave him the option of being a doctor, engineer or pharmacist. He chose the latter, as it would most easily allow him to pursue dreams of becoming a rock star. While doing stints at national chain pharmacies in 1990’s NYC, he played in several bands before decamping to Hollywood. There he became a go-to pharmacist for A-list celebrities wishing to be discreet about their healthcare needs.
“I take confidentiality extremely seriously,” he says. “If TMZ had access to what I saw on a day-to-day basis, man—Hollywood would be a reduced to smoldering rubble.”
In summer 2013, George opened his pharmacy in the same neighborhood he haunted with a guitar 15 years before. The corner spot that bares his name combines his familial legacy, his experience as a licensed pharmacist, his rock affectations and his desire to be the guy to see when people want to feel better—even if they feel pretty good in the first place. “A good night begins and ends at Stanley’s,” says the seasoned party guru as he instructs a hungover patron to chase an specially blended tea with a shot of blue-green algae from an prehistoric lake in Oregon and 100mg of 5-HTP. “I’ll get you set up for a night on the town and be here in the morning to set you straight on your way back down.”