Sims Drugs serves up nostalgia in Wilmore

Spirit of the Bluegrass
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WILMORE, Kentucky–  Step into Wilmore’s one and only pharmacy and it’s like stepping back in time.

There’s been a pharmacy here since the late 1800s and there are signs of the early days all around– potions and remedies you’d probably avoid now and pictures from when the well-known Sims family ran it throughout the 1900s.

It’s still called Sims Drugs, but John McDaniel bought the business about 15 years ago.

It’s the kind of place where the druggist knows almost all of the customers by name, and where generations of the same family have sat down at the lunch counter over the decades.

McDaniel said “I’ve heard stories of couples married 60 or 70 years,  who tell they met at this pharmacy. It’s neat to overhear that and see the warmth come out of people.”

There are actually two businesses inside this building. The diner is now called Sims Pizzeria and it’s the only place to get a pizza in Wilmore. Chef Greg Scott  bought it about a year ago, and although he’s spent a lifetime as a chef in high-end restaurants and hotels, he’s now quite happy making sandwiches on the grill.

 “Just because you don’t have a $30,000 chandalier hanging over your head donesn’t mean you don’t get the best food I know how to make,” Scott said.

The menu has lunch counter staples, such as grilled cheese and chicken salad sandwiches, but Scott doesn’t go cheap on the ingredients.

He said “It’s important that we do basic southern diner food but it doesn’t have to taste like it did at the school cafeteria when we were kids.”

The drug store caught on fire in 1952, and most of the equipment and fixtures remain from that rebuild. The owners of both sides of Sims say want to maintain the 1950s look.

Scott said “Part of the appeal of the place is what it looks like and how it feels and we don’t need a lot of slick modern stuff in here.”

 “Frankly, after 100 years, it would really worry people if we made too many changes, if we updated too much,” McDaniel said.

You can still get old fashioned candy in the drug store and thick shakes from the menu.

Tourists love that, but it’s the regulars who keep the doors open. It’s not just a business– it’s a community gathering place.

Regular customer Shawn Craigmiles said “We usually keep talking between bites. There’s a whole lot of waving and hand shaking that goes on every lunch… which is good.”

The small town drug store and diner face challenges, from mail order pharmacies and big box stores, but maybe, just maybe, they’ve secured their future by staying focused on the past.

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