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Main Drug Store a Loomis mainstay for 65 years

Takemotos, staff serve up longevity
By: Martha Garcia, Loomis News Editor
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If endurance is a sign of an icon, then the Takemoto family and their Main Drug Store certainly fit the bill. The drug store is still family owned, almost 65 years after it was started by Hiroshi “Doc” and Tsugie “Rose” Takemoto, and Doc’s mother, Kikuyo Takemoto. The Takemotos opened Main Drug in 1945 soon after their release from the Rohwer Internment Camp in Arkansas. They had been among the 110,000 Japanese and Americans of Japanese ancestry who were removed from the West Coast into internment camps in 1942. The Takemotos returned with their daughters Jean and Irene, and baby son, Gordon, who was born while in the camp. Known as “Doc” by local residents, Hiroshi Takemoto received his pharmacy degree from the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco. Gordon Takemoto, who earned his degree from the University of the Pacific pharmacy school, joined his father as pharmacist in 1968. He worked with Doc until he was drafted into the Army and returned to the drug store in 1971. He assumed the duties as head pharmacist when Doc died in November 1981 at the age of 67. “He was like a jolly old soul,” Takemoto recalls about his father. “He was always cheerful and liked to joke around.” After all these years, Rose Takemoto still greets customers from behind the drug store’s front register. She learned the retail trade from her father, Fusakichi Dairiki, who owned a grocery store in Penryn where she worked as a butcher. The first Main Drug was located in a building that sat where Subway is now located. In 1955, the drug store moved to its current location at the corner of Taylor Road and Walnut Street, into a building that had been a grocery store. “Where the pharmacy is now used to be a walk-in refrigerator,” Takemoto said. From the beginning, the drug store had a soda fountain. “The counter came from Borden’s ice cream that used to be in Roseville,” said Takemoto. Moving the fountain from the old store required old-fashioned ingenuity. “The way we got it here,” said Takemoto, “is we rolled it down the middle of Taylor.” With pipes underneath it, the fountain traveled down the road as it glided on the pipes as they were shifted from back to front. The original fountain eventually rusted out, said Takemoto, and he had to replace it with a stainless steel unit that won’t rust. “They told me it came from a Mexican restaurant in Rough & Ready,” he said. But the counter, which has been resurfaced, and the stools, which have been recovered, are from the original drug store. Customers continue to enjoy old-fashioned treats served at the soda fountain, where they are made to feel at home by the easy and friendly nature of longtime employees Amy Takemoto (not related to the store owners) and Clara Hada. “She likes everybody, and everybody likes her,” said Ken Kashiwabara of Hada. Kashiwabara is one of the Main Drug “regulars” who belly up to the soda-fountain counter practically every day for their 1 p.m. coffee break or lunch. The group of retirees includes Jack Patterson, Lorene Owen, Howard Fisher, Frank Fujita, Colby Waddell, Jim Victorine and Howard Stitt. “Tradition,” a good place to meet with friends, and a chance to “solve the world’s problems,” keep bringing them back, said Stitt. According to Stitt, through the years there have been different groups who have gathered at the soda fountain regularly. “It started with Doc. He even kept the store open on Sunday so regulars could come in,” Stitt said. Like his father, Takemoto is a “people” person and strives to be “cheerful like him,” he said. Although he turned 65 in July, Takemoto isn’t ready to retire. “I enjoy what I’m doing,” he said. “We have good people in the community. It makes work enjoyable.” It would be hard for him to it give up, he said. “You get to see your friends every day … You enjoy helping them so that’s good, too.” As a concession to his wife, JoAnn, who has worked alongside him in the drug store since 1971, he’s willing to cut back his hours at the store in order to “do other things, maybe traveling,” Takemoto said. But, he adds, “Personally I enjoy being around here.”