Weinmann-Matthews Drug Store

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, September 1974,
September 1974
Original Images:


The very best history of the WEINMANN-MATTHEWS DRUG STORE which we have is one recently sent to us by Mr. Fred H. Weinmann from his home in Florida:

In 1898 my father, Mr. E. Fred Weinmann, and Mr. Ernest D. Matthews entered the drug business with their first store at 29 North Huron. In 1903 they incorporated with C.W. Rogers who owned and operated the Erastus Sampson Drug Store at 118 West Congress, as it was known at that time. (Erastus Sampson owned and operated a Drug Store as early as 1842 in a frame structure at this location which was destroyed in the tremendous fire of March 1851. The Samson Drug Store opened again that year for business in a new brick building at the same location. A drug store occupied this building which is still standing for the next 120 years.) The store was then re-named Rogers, Weinmann and Matthews. In those days, in addition to being a drug store, they handled paints, wallpaper and newspapers. For many years the store was opened at 6 A.M. to accomodate the painters and decorators. Another store was opened on West Cross Street and was know as “Rowima”. (A clever combination of the first two letters from the names of the three owners.) Later Mr. Weinmann and Mr. Matthews purchased Mr. Rogers interests with the exception of the “Rowima” store which he retained.

In the early 1903 Weinmann and Matthews purchased a store in Saline, Michigan which Mr. Weinmann operated for a few years. At that time the telephone exchange was located and operated in the store. It was in operation only during store hours.
Sometime between 1912 and 1915 the Company purchased two drug stores in Jackson, Michigan which they operated for a few years.

In the late 1920's Ralph D. Matthews and Fred H. Weinmann joined their fathers in the enterprise. In 1927 Weinmann and Matthews Co. purchased the Mercer Drug Store located at 36 North Washington; corner of Pearl and Washington. (This is the location of the old wooden structure known as the “Ark”. John Miller, the photographer, bought the property about 1915 and replaced the “Ark” with a two storey modern brick building.) The two stores were operated until 1946 at which time the Washington Street store was closed and consolidated with the Michigan Ave. store.

I will add a few episodes that may be of interest to include in your story.
In 1903 the Rexall Drug Co. was formed by Louis K. Liggett. The Weinmann Matthews Co. held a Rexall franchise from that original date. As you mentioned, many people enjoyed the delicious chocolate and coffee sodas served at our soda fountains. Mr. Louis A. Weinmann, brother of E. Fred Weinmann, made the syrup concentrates in a mammoth kettle in the back of the Michigan Avenue store. We had soda fountain customers who we saw only once a year, on their way to or from the University of Michigan football games. At that time all traffic went directly through Ypsilanti via Michigan Ave. to get to Ann Arbor Many older citizens may remember going to the second floor of the Michigan Ave. store to choose wall paper for their homes. For the Christmas season, starting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, this same second floor was converted into “Toyland” until World War II.

It was a joyous time in which to do business in Ypsilanti. We hope that the merchants and business men at present continue to enjoy the wonderful community co-operation which we remember.

E. Fred Weinmann (1872 Saline-1948 Ypsilanti) worked for John Frank Smith whose “Smith” Drug Store was at 104 Congress. (Michigan) Frank Smith came to Ypsilanti after graduating from Dartmouth College in 1858. The Smith Drug Store made and sold ice cream-a chocolate sundae cost you five cents. Weinmann was always active in the Community and a Charter Member of the Ypsilanti Kiwanis Club.

Ernest D. Matthews (Ypsilanti 1874-Ypsilanti 1934), his partner, was a great reader and always had the books of the new authors in the book section of the store on Congress Street. In that section you found Edgar Lee Master's “Spoon River Anthology”, Zane Grey's latest novel and later “In our Time” and “Torents of Spring” by Ernest Hemingway. Rogers, Weinmann and Matthews, truly three remarkable Ypsilanti citizens.

Sometime ago Arthur J. Howard told us that when a young man, he traveled on business throughout the western states and how the one thing he really missed in hot weather were the sodas he had at Weinmann-Matthews. Each time he came to a new town he would go into the local drug store and have a soda-they were never as good. Finally, in a small town in Nebraska he found a drug store whose sodas were “almost as good as Weinmann-Matthews chocolate soda”. Many times, particularly on hot summer days, we have heard other people say, “Boy, wouldn't a bittersweet chocolate sundae or a chocolate soda taste good right now!” The Gaudy Chocolate Shop and the Weinmann-Matthews Drug Store