Date: February 4, 2005
Byline: Joe Barron
Open for business at inn site
In quiet contrast to the controversy that preceded its arrival, the Flourtown Walgreens opened for business Jan. 21. The pharmacy and its neighbor, a 7,200-square-foot liquor store, share the parking lot with the historical Black Horse Inn, which at one time they threatened to displace.
Walgreens customers said this week that while they were aware of efforts to keep the Black Horse from being torn down or moved to make room for the shopping center, preservationists' objections to development did not discourage them from shopping there.
Anne Graham, a customer from Ambler, said Walgreens' selection, spaciousness, and friendly employees provided a welcome alternative to the CVS pharmacy a mile down the pike.
"This is so much bigger, and there are a lot of things here that CVS doesn't carry, in my personal opinion," Graham said Tuesday. "I just love it a lot."
Indeed, the preservation of the Black Horse seemed to relieve any doubts employees or customers may have had about their association with Walgreens. Tonya Bevan, a clerk from East Oreland, said she would likely have thought twice about accepting her position if the inn had been removed.
"Well, I certainly didn't want them to tear the building down," she said.
Doug Heller, a resident of East Mill Road and an advocate of preservation at many of the public hearings held over the Black Horse, expressed satisfaction that the inn had been preserved, because, he said, it hides the shopping center from the traffic heading north on Bethlehem Pike.
"My feeling is that I'm very happy the Black Horse Inn stands," Heller said Tuesday. "Otherwise we'd have another big, gaping parking lot like we have at the Acme."
Like some other opponents of the shopping center, Heller said he would avoid Walgreens. The new state store, on the other hand, was another matter.
"Yes, I will shop at the liquor store," he said. "I can pass on the drugs. I can't pass on the wine."
The opening of the liquor store, scheduled for Wednesday, was postponed as workers scrambled to complete the interior. Assistant manager Chris Connelly was turning customers away from the front door as early as 10:30 a.m.
Connelly said the liquor store might open Thursday or Friday, though he could not be sure. In any event, he said, the grand opening, complete with a free wine tasting, was still scheduled for Feb. 9.
Walgreens planned a grand opening for the week of Feb. 20.
The development had the unintended consequence of opening the Black Horse to a 360-degree view. With the removal of the old liquor store and the undergrowth at Bysher Avenue, the inn may be seen clearly from the north, and the back, with its broken windows and moldering stucco, is fully visible from the front of the wine and spirits shop.
The inn partially conceals the liquor store, and Jim Dobson, the store's general manager, said he would have liked greater visibility from the pike. He also said the number of spaces in the parking lot seemed barely adequate for the business he expected. Although there is additional parking behind the building, he said, there is no rear entrance to the shop.
The one door open to the public at the back of the building provides access to a suite of offices on the second floor, where Walgreens moved its regional headquarters from Fort Washington in December.
Despite any disagreements over the compromises made by the developer to save the Black Horse, the employees, customers and neighbors of the new stores appeared happy that months of building had ended and life and business could go on.
Sen Oh, a resident of Bysher Avenue who shares a property line with the Walgreens parking lot, said dust filled the air during construction, and the noise often kept her infant son awake.
"Now it's done," she said. "I'm so happy about that."