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Downtown Journal: Good Guys Finish First

Downtown Journal
An occasional column about city life

The biggest news of the week arrived with old school simplicity – delivered by the post office in a letter that began:

“To Our Valued Customers and Friends of GREEN CROSS PHARMACY…we are retiring after 55 years. Green Cross Pharmacy has been sold and will be closing on March 6, 2019…” 

The letter packed a wallop, but not because I would lose the services of my favorite drug store. Over the years, I have used other pharmacies offering more convenience, variety, or quicker service than Green Cross. For 11 years, I lived outside the neighborhood and never once considered coming back to the North End to use Green Cross. 

Yet, when I moved back to the Waterfront, the Green Cross was one of the first places I stopped by to say “hello.” Freddie (Fernando), one of two Giangregorio brothers who presided over the hallowed pharmacy underneath the golden mortar and pestle on Hanover Street, remembered me right away. I was happy to tell him I had finally quit smoking. 

Years ago, when I was struggling to stop my odious habit, I went into the Green Cross for quitting paraphernalia (patches, nicotine gum, and Italian mints). Freddie sympathized with my wanting to stop my addiction and he offered sage advice. He told me he had quit by focusing his attention immediately onto something else whenever he had the urge to light up. He said this diversion method would become unconscious after a while when I wanted a smoke and, with time, I would quell the need for a cigarette. He was right. Of course, patches, gum and mints helped, but Freddie’s guidance stuck with me. The advice was so modest but so true – kind of like Green Cross itself where, over the years, counsel and assistance for the sick and needy came packaged with minimal fuss. 

Something about the Green Cross just made one feel better, with no drugs or steri-strips. The place offered analog comfort – harkening back to a quieter time of good citizenship and honest work. Freddie and his brother Joseph (Peppi) were not in the business to rip anybody off, or to cheat fragile souls out of their disability monies, or to make cash on the side by peddling anything illegal. If you call up Green Cross Pharmacy on Yelp, you read many stories about how people who didn’t have the right amount were sent off with their purchase and told to return when they had the money. “They didn’t even take down my name,” writes one amazed Yelper. 

Of course, the Green Cross was always bucking trends. They didn’t take credit cards when everybody shopped with plastic. They were an independent pharmacy in an age when the big chain stores (CVS, Walgreens and their ilk) strangled the competition. They coped with the bureaucratic tangle of Big Pharma and the insurance behemoths. Green Cross also clung to a charming street corner in the North End through the shopping eras of malls and online. 

When I stopped into the Green Cross after getting the news of its passing, Peppi was talking to customers swarming into the store to wish the brothers well. “We wanted to sell to someone who would run this as an independent, but we couldn’t find anybody,” he said. So the Giangregorios are selling their inventory and customer lists to CVS down the street. And, of course, they’re being very gracious about it. “CVS will be committed to giving you excellent service and quality patient care,” they write in their goodbye letter. 

Joe and Freddy Giangregorio.

The family owns the Hanover Street building so Peppi will continue to live upstairs. Freddie and his family live in Revere, but he will surely come around the neighborhood. Still, the North End is diminished by the loss of the Green Cross, which contributed immeasurably to the Italian authenticity and flavor of the place. 

If I am comforted by anything about the closing of the Green Cross Pharmacy, it’s the knowledge these two distinguished Giangregorio brothers, 82 and 80 years old, retire with unparalleled dignity and good feelings. They achieved what many of us hope will be our legacy – a long career unblemished by tackiness, corruption and vice. They go out on the side of the angels. May they have every speck of health and happiness in the leisure years. 

We send them off with a salute the ancient Romans reserved only for their most distinguished citizens: Ave atque vale (Hail and farewell) Freddy and Peppi. 

Monica Collins is a writer who lives on the Waterfront with her husband, Ben Alper, and dog, Dexter.

8 Replies to “Downtown Journal: Good Guys Finish First

  1. Joe and Freddy Started me on my Journey isn’t Pharmacy after 50 years I am still going. I am leaving my legacy to my Daughter Dr.Daria Accaputo Puentes

    I love Pharmacy and probably will retire at 80. My pharmacy started on the WaterFront and now I am in Florida
    So goodbye Freddy and Joe
    Anthony Accaputo

  2. My Family and I lived above the Green Cross for over 36yrs, Joe, Freddie and Ellie were not only owners of 391 Hanover but were like family to us.They would watch over all my sisters and brothers growing up, if there were any medical issues or issues of any kind they were the first to respond. After our parents passed away they kept a watchful eye over our younger siblings. They were always there with a helping hand, a kind word or a sympathetic ear. On behalf of all the Bruno Children and their families we wish you peace, joy and happiness .
    The Children of Ralph and Rose-Perez Bruno

  3. Dear Joey and Freddie,
    Our family thanks you for your warmth, carefully considered responses, and for always being there with medication in hand and a smile on your face. We were so grateful when you delivered the medicine when the children were ill, and we were exhausted. It was as if the angel of health was at our door.

    Your professional expertise, and talents were greatly appreciated, but most of all we are blessed by your genuine caring and friendship.

    Green Cross Pharmacy was one in a million and will be dearly and lovingly missed.

    We wish you safe and interesting travels and hope to see you around the neighborhood.

    Love and Hugs,
    Andrea, Woodie, Kristin, Elana, Ariel

  4. Joe Freddie and Elli wishing you all the best. You have been always there for everyone. We will miss you. No one could ever take your place.
    Thanks again the Esposito Family.

  5. I wish I could wake up tomorrow morning and find out that the closing of the Green Cross was just a horrible rumor !!!
    But I guess that would not be possible ! I can’t even picture ~~not going to the Green Cross for advice and information.
    I not only went there for my Prescriptions, but for re-assurance of my diagnosis.
    I have good memories of Freddy, Joe and Rachel’s kindnesses~~~especially back in 1972 when I was a young girl dealing with a very sick husband and two babies~~~they were able to deal with me properly and professionally and with the utmost kindness possible !! They walked me through the nightmare EVERY STEP OF THE WAY!!!!! I will never forget them for that alone !!
    Thank You from the bottom of my heart with every inch of my being !! I will sincerely miss ya’ll but wish for health and happiness per cent’anni !! (spelling?) For 100 years !

  6. Fred and Joe, You both are to me the definition of the spirit, warmth, and acceptance of the North End. When Larry and I moved here in 1993, you made us feel so welcome, like a part of the family. Your sincere caring for Larry’s health when he had his struggles was beyond belief! He knew he could call your from Florida and you would take care of whatever he needed and mail it to him. Whenever my friends ask me what I love about living in the North End, I always start with your warmth and caring. No one who doesn’t know you can understand how you would just trust everyone. You both epitomize the definition of a “mensch” – a yiddish expression meaning a person of integrity and honor. I love you both and wish you only the best of health, happiness and joy as you journey through your next stage in life. Thanks for everything – Sheila and Larry

  7. May God grant you both MANY continued blessings and years ahead, that you so richly deserve, Freddie & Peppi. As Capt. Phil would say, : “You are the BEST!!!” 🙂

  8. One Saturday after Thanksgiving I went to Green Cross to fill my mother’s prescription to find out that the Green Cross was closed that day. I was surprised since they never seemed to close. So, I went down the street to CVS. I had refills on the prescription bottle. At CVS I was told they could not fill the prescription because they did not have prescription on file. Any time I would go to the Green Cross if I had no refills or prescription wasn’t in from Dr’s office, Freddie or Joe would always front me some pills until prescription came in from Dr. . A small example of what will be missed about Joe & Freddie. Joe & Freddie & Ellie, I will forever remember you & you will always be in my prayers. Hey, Freddie maybe now you get another Nico(I think this was your dog’s name).

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