How long was “the Pharm” on the corner of State and Lake?
If you’ve ever found yourself in need of Band-aids, binder clips, or a bottle of Coke in downtown Madison, you’ve probably ducked into the inconspicuous little drugstore on the corner of State and Lake streets; however, its name and interior likely differed depending on when you paid your visit. If you stopped in any time before 1981, you found yourself in Rennebohm’s, or “Rennie’s,” Drug Store. This particular location was fondly referred to by regulars as “the Pharm.” The tenth installment of Oscar Rennebohm 1911’s legendary Wisconsin pharmacy and soda fountain chain, this downtown campus staple doled out everything from grilled Danishes to postcards to Pepto Bismol and served as the go-to spot for quick lunches and romantic rendezvouses alike. If you happened upon the Pharm any time after the ‘60s, you probably found its once-sunny windows bricked up after repeated damage from Vietnam War protests. This was no deterrent to Walgreens, which took over the location in 1980 during their acquisition of the entire Rennebohm’s chain. Since then, Badgers have been procuring their candy, calendars, and cough drops at the “Corner W,” and the lunch counters and tantalizing menu of the Pharm are relegated to the memories of its loyal patrons. The one thing we can’t seem to find about the Pharm: its opening date! If you were one of the lucky few to attend the grand opening of Rennebohm’s State and Lake location, or if you just happen to know when that was, let us know!
Update: Thanks to one super-sleuth alum, we now know that the Pharm opened in 1936 after Rennebohm’s took over the University Pharmacy at 676 State Street. Thanks to all whose research and memories helped us revive the story of this Rennebohm’s location!