In December 1952, Alton Sherwood Parrish and his wife, Norma, came to Newton Grove to establish Newton Grove Drug Company. He was reared in nearby Four Oaks and Mrs. Parrish came from the mountains of West Virginia. It was during military service and pharmacy school at UNC Chapel Hill that Sherwood Parrish acquired the name “Archie” or “Archibald”. As such, when he relocated here, he was known as Archie Parrish. Before arriving in Newton Grove, he worked at Sloan’s Drug Store in Chapel Hill.
Prior to this time, Newton Grove was primarily a two service station town with a post office. There was no bank, and the closest physicians were Dr. Lee at McLamb’s Crossroads and Dr. Warrick at Grantham. Archie had inquired about the community and considered Newton Grove to be a good location to establish a drug store where there was both a need and an opportunity. He was loved by his Four Oaks neighborhood. As a result, many of his friends followed him here to patronize his business and see him become successful. He was still Sherwood Parrish, their beloved son. Mrs. Parrish assisted him in the business and was a great asset.
Archie was not only an entrepreneur, but a man of vision. Whatever he decided to do, generally he did it. With the help of others in town, Archie petitioned the Banking Commission to establish First Citizens Bank here. In like manner, he realized a need for a medical facility here, particularly with the ages of Dr. Lee and Dr. Warrick. Hence, he was influential in establishing a medical center in Newton Grove, which served as a precursor to our current Newton Grove Family Medicine. Newton Grove was also without any kind of industry, as it was primarily a farming community with limited income otherwise. Again, he was influential in establishing a factory that provided jobs to many in the community.
When Archie established the drug store, Thomas Alton Williford was a young kid who wanted to be a pharmacist. Thomas’ dad, Joseph, and Archie had come to know one another. One day Joe and Thomas were in the store and as Thomas observed “Mr. Parrish” he was very impressed. He had heard people in town talk about “Mr. Parrish” and what a good pharmacist and helper he was to the community. He wore white, long sleeved, starched shirts with cuff links and stylish ties. He worked in the only air conditioned building in town. He helped people when they were sick and really became their “doctor”. All of this impressed Thomas and he was more excited than ever to become a pharmacist. Thomas worked with Archie every Saturday and Sunday and sometimes during the week throughout high school. Thomas attended UNC Chapel Hill School of Pharmacy and worked here during the summers. In 1964, Thomas joined Archie as a pharmacist at Newton Grove Drug. In 1973, Archie sold Thomas the business and the two men continued working together for over a decade.
In 1988 Archie Parrish retired from Newton Grove Drug and Herman Van Williford was hired to work with Thomas. Van, a 1983 graduate of UNC School of Pharmacy, like Thomas, had grown up in Newton Grove. As a lifelong member of the community he too had seen first hand just how integral Archie Parrish and Newton Grove Drug had become to the town. As Mr. Parrish began to spend more time at the golf course, Thomas and Van continued to work those twelve hour days at the store.
Two decades passed and in 2005, Tommy’s son Joey, a 2001 graduate of Campbell University School of Pharmacy, was hired to work alongside Thomas and Van. Having grown up as a child in the drugstore, Joey has held every position from soda jerk to pharmacist. Today, he and Van work alternate days while Tommy fills in on occasion. As we celebrate all these years of service since our founding in 1952, we hope to build upon our proud heritage while looking toward the future.
Accolades & Anecdotes
Established in 1952, Newton Grove Drug is one of the oldest pharmacies in North Carolina. Long before the days of the big box chain stores, Newton Grove Drug set the pace with seven days a week service, twelve hours a day. A lifelong member of North Carolina Mutual Drug, we pride ourselves on being the lowest priced, best value for your healthcare dollar anywhere. We have been recognized by public television here in our state with an episode of “My Home NC” devoted to us. We have been featured in numerous magazine, newspaper, and internet articles touting our place in our state and community as a fixture on the world famous “Newton Grove Traffic Circle”. Our old fashioned soda fountain with lemonades, orangeades, milkshakes, and 24 flavors of hand dipped Hershey’s Ice Cream is a local landmark and a nostalgic memory for many North Carolinians. Before the days of interstate 40, if you traveled to the North Carolina Coast from Raleigh and places westward, chances are you probably stopped and had one of our famous milkshakes.
As pharmacy preceptors for both UNC Chapel Hill and Campbell University School of Pharmacy, we have helped precept nearly three generations of pharmacists. The willingness to give back to our profession is embodied in the philosophy of owner Thomas Williford. An educator at heart, Thomas has long believed that a quality education is one of the keys to prosperity and success. Grounded in his faith and his belief in education, Thomas has given hundreds and hundreds of high school kids their first jobs working at “the drugstore”. All of them will tell you that he was at one time a driving force in each of their lives. Thomas has personally authored well over 50 pharmacy school letters of recommendation during his tenure at Newton Grove Drug. You might find this a bit astonishing, but every one of those students went on to become pharmacists. In addition to precepting students, Thomas Williford has served as an advisor on the admissions board to Campbell University’s School of Pharmacy.
We take great pride in knowing how deeply our community has supported Newton Grove Drug since 1952. We are very thankful to our customers past, present, and future. Come see us today and learn why we’re more than a pharmacy…we’re family!