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Revamped Red Hook pharmacy a sign of the times

By Gary Buiso

For years, Bernard Glezerman was hearing Red Hook loud and clear: “Mr. Pharmacist, tear down this wall!”

On Nov. 3, Glezerman and business partner Boris Natenzon answered the neighborhood with the re-opening of their shop, Nate’s Pharmacy and Surgical Supplies — without the thick pane of bulletproof glass that for years separated customers from staff.

“It’s hard to talk to someone through glass, let alone bulletproof glass,” said Glezerman, a pharmacist originally from Bergen Beach. “The neighborhood needed that face to face interaction,” he added. “We wanted to service customers in a way that didn’t feel like a prison.”

But doing so would be costly, he soon learned. Taking down the glass would turn out to be cost prohibitive, but Glezerman remained undaunted, reaching out the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Center (SBIDC), a business advocacy group that ultimately helped him secure a $42,000 grant from the state’s Main Street Program.

“It’s a sign of the times changing for the better and a sign of a revitalizing commercial corridor,” said Josh Keller, SBIDC’s executive director.

Elizabeth Demetriou, SBIDC’s director of revitalization and development, said her group helped the pharmacy apply for the grant through theDepartment of Housing and Community Renewal, and administered the funds, which are available to local businesses for a variety of renovations. The public funding was added to the total cost of renovation, which was about $200,000, according to Glezerman.

The shop, located at 376 Van Brunt Street, is part of a chain of six independent full service pharmacies. Glezerman and Natenzon, of Bensonhurst, took over the business in 2003, when Nate’s Pharmacy purchased the property.

The pharmacy was originally opened in the late 1980s, when the Red Hook was a crime filled neighborhood on the brink.Things got even worse in the 1990s, when Life magazine dubbed it the crack cocaine capital of America.Nowadays, of course, Red Hook is considerably safer, and periodically touted as the next big thing. “The neighborhood is changing, and we wanted to change with it,” Glezerman said.

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