By Susan E. Campbell
In a community that has health, history and horses in its motto, Menges & Curtis Apothecary has promoted all three ideals for nearly 158 years. This iconic business at 472 Broadway is the longest continually operating enterprise in Saratoga Springs and new owners Jennifer and Scott Lamb are committed to carrying on its traditions while ushering in some new ones.
Pharmacy is a second education for Jennifer Lamb. She graduated in 2012 with the goal of getting into the non-traditional area of compounding medications for humans and animals. While this specialty is gaining popularity, she said training is needed beyond a chemistry background and what university offers.
“After graduation I had to reach out to independents to teach me, like an apprentice,” said Lamb. “In order to go into veterinary pharmacy you have to learn to compound, because there are far fewer commercial medications for animals as people. And dosages vary if you are compounding for a mouse or a horse or an elephant.”
Her mentor was George Doherty of Fallon Wellness Pharmacy. His sudden passing came around the time that Michael Lenz, who partnered with Peter Fallon, wanted to sell the compounding pharmacy that his father had purchased in the late 1950s, originally named Menges & Curtis.
According to Lamb, “Mike was ready to close the chapter on the pharmacy he had associated with since he was a boy.” He approached the Lambs and there was an “instant connection and a great fit,” she said. They became the business’s fifth owners in more than 15 decades.
Buying and operating a business was not on their radar initially, Lamb said. She and her husband had just purchased a home in Guilderland.
“But opportunities like this come only once in a lifetime,“ she said. “This business is one of the few compounding pharmacies in the Capital District. And it was already set up to do 50 percent veterinary compounding and 50 percent for people.”
Restoring the name Menges & Curtis Apothecary was important to the new owners in carrying on the traditions of an iconic Broadway storefront rich in history.
“I didn’t realize how special it was to become part of that history,” said Lamb, likening ownership to a stewardship. “Our hearts realized this place should always be a pharmacy and the center of community where people can come without the pressures of time,” she said, in contrast to a big box drug store.
“It used to be that you told the pharmacist your symptoms and he would compound something,” said Lamb. “Today we are helping customers on the road to good health and carrying on that tradition of communication and trust.”
Compounding is the art and science of mixing medicine one batch at a time, which fills several niches. Mass-produced drugs often contain fillers and dyes that patients may be allergic to. The patient may have an intolerance or sensitivity to an existing drug product, causing an unpleasant side effect. And from time to time a certain medication may not be readily available.
“If the patient cannot digest a medication well, it would qualify to get a script from the doctor,” Lamb said. “If your cream hurts your skin or your pill is giving you acid reflux, you’re probably not taking your medication regularly and would benefit from custom compounding.”
Lamb said there is “some wiggle room” as to how the pharmacist mixes the medication and likens the process to making a cake.
“The kind of flour or sugar used in one kind of cake may vary from baker to baker, and that is ‘secundum arten,’ or the art of the practice, with compounders,” she said. Each cake in this example, while somewhat different, is made in accordance with the standards of the profession.
While the shop has always had personal grooming products and gifts, the Lambs have added a few local products, including a men’s grooming line, houseware items, natural deodorant and some new soap lines.
Around the time of their re-opening, Caswell-Massey, a soap maker and perfumery dating back to 1752, contacted Lamb about a renaissance they were undergoing. Now Menges & Curtis carries that company’s personal product line.
The Lambs are excited to have found artifacts in the cupboards and cabinets, basement and crannies of their space at the Ainsworth Building and are putting their finds on display.
“We are making placards about the items and turning the items into a little museum,” she said.
She said they are “excited to be so welcomed and accepted by the Saratoga community.”
“Many people don’t know what to expect when they walk into Menges & Curtis and their jaws drop,” she said. “With the tin ceilings, marble tops and exquisite woodwork, it really is like stepping back in time.”
The phone number is 518-306-5343. Operating hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and closed Sunday. Its website is www.mengesandcurtis.com.