Few businesses symbolize Rutherford County as well as Smith's Drugs.
From Grady Shuford's unapologetic fandom for UNC-Chapel Hill basketball a generation ago to the grandmother who shared French Fries with the kids yesterday, the place is rich in local history and memories of good times.
Need an oxygen bottle delivered to your home or a hospital bed? Smith's is there.
Need a prescription filled first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon?
Need a delicious cheeseburger, fries, a fountain drink, or a sweet tea?
How about a snappy new t-shirt or a coffee mug or a copy of Robin Lattimore's history of Forest City? The gift shop at Smith's Drug is a favorite haunt of local folks looking for a way to celebrate a special occasion or just pick up a little bling.
Celebrating its 80th birthday Saturday with the Meet Me At The Fountain 5K, Smith's Drugs has anchored Main Street Forest City since the Germans invaded Poland and Vivian Leigh and Clark Gable invaded the hearts of so many with their portrayals of Scarlette O'Hara and Rhett Butler in Gone With The Wind.
Jock Lauterer put pictures from the Friday night football games in the window at Smith's starting in 1969 and continuing for nine years after. Many football fans clustered around those photos on Saturday morning and after headed inside for breakfast or coffee.
People have fallen in love at the fountain counter, gotten well from the medicines dispensed, gotten home health care and nursing home care through those divisions. Pharmacist and owner, John Higgins runs a multi-ring circus that is inspiring and heartfelt.
Higgins and his wife, Stephanie employ 70 people in the store's many divisions.
"I've always enjoyed helping people," Higgins said of the enterprise. "Sometimes it gets mundane, but then I remember why I do it. This is the reason we went into medicine to start with. We wanted to bring comfort and healing to people who are sick. It doesn't always work, but when it does, it's really good."
Higgins and his wife bought the store in 2000 from Hugh Moore, who had owned it since the late 80's. Prior to that, the store was owned by Shuford, whose father, L.D. was among the founders. Like Moore and Higgins, Shuford was a generous giver to the community, supporting Scout troops, ball teams, and good causes of every stripe.
Shuford was a major mover and shaker in community life, but his wife, Barbara Ann, was among the most generous and giving people around. She visited the sick, cooked and took meals to people confined to home, and every year cooked lasagna for local fans of the ACC Basketball Tournament, one of the high holy events in the lives of round ball fans.
Higgins continues the tradition of honoring the football player of the week from the four high schools that field football teams. The store's community liaison, Judy Russell, said the players get a plaque, a picture made with Higgins and a free meal from the fountain.
Russell can hardly contain her enthusiasm for Smith's Drugs and what happens at the Main Street store.
"I come from the corporate world and this is just the opposite. Whole families work here and John (Higgins) puts so much emphasis on employee relations," Russell said. She said there are a number of employees who have been with the company for many years, a sure sign it's a great place to work.
"We're not just working here for a paycheck," Russell said. "Many of us have caught John's vision of community service. That's what we want to emphasize on this anniversary. We are so grateful to this community for letting us serve them."
Russell also crowed about the more than 40 local clinics this year the store provided for flu shots and other vaccinations.
"The thing about the flu is that it can dramatically affect people who are already sick. If you have COPD or diabetes, the flu can be fatal," she said.
According to Russell, many people like the convenience of getting a flu shot in a pharmacy, but added, "When we come to you at your church, your work, your Lion's Club meeting, that adds another layer of convenience."
It may be Russell's job to crow, but her admiration for Higgins and her coworkers is sincere. She is a cheerleader of the first order.
"There's just a whole lot of good things going on at Smith's," Russell said.
Smith's Drugs also has sold many copies of Heart On Wheels, Amazin' Stories From The Life Of Tommy Hicks 1954-2017. They still have a few copies left.
Race Info: This Saturday, July 27, the Meet Me At The Fountain 5K will be run. An entry form and sponsorship opportunities for the race can be found at rutherfordoutdoorrun.org, or on the website for Smith's Drugs. Proceeds from the 5K will benefit cancer research. This year four different cancer charities are receiving funds from the run including the Multiple Myoma Association.