The business began in 1896 when Sheldon Toomer founded a drug store that occupied the corner of what is now downtown Auburn. Since its opening, Toomer’s Drugs has evolved from a fully-stocked pharmacy with a soda-shop atmosphere into a one-of-a-kind landmark selling its own merchandise and still serving the community hand-squeezed lemonade.
“To the best of my knowledge, the lemonade has been served since the store opened in 1896,” said Michael Overstreet, manager of Toomer’s Drugs. “It was just an item on the menu like everything else and you know, slowly but surely your best stuff becomes your most popular stuff.”
The store’s evolution and popularity has allowed it to remain profitable throughout its 115 years. Although it is no longer a pharmacy, it still carries some over-the-counter drugs and bandages.
“Toomer’s Drugs is one of those Auburn traditions that has adapted with the change in times, but it still keeps its original quality and meaningfulness,” said Anna Henderson, senior in exercise science. “Instead of remaining a pharmacy, the new owners realized that the store was more of a landmark than anything else, but you can still buy some of the drug store-type items there too.”
These current owners, who decided against a fully stocked pharmacy, are Harrison School of Pharmacy alumni Don and Betty Haisten. Overstreet said the business has gradually adapted to carry what customers desire most.
“You find out what people want you to be, and that’s what you become,” he said. “If you’re making more money on serving food and lemonade than you are filling prescriptions, then clearly that’s the route that you should be focusing more of your attention to.”
During the fall, football fans flock to the historic site for an ice-cold glass on gameday, and during the summer months Toomer’s Drugs receives much of its patronage from freshman orientation groups in Camp War Eagle.
“Toomer’s has always been a huge, very gracious sponsor of Camp War Eagle, and the freshmen loved going to get lemonade, some trying it for the first time,” said Whitley Kelley, 2010 Camp War Eagle counselor and senior in cell and molecular biology.
Department of Animal Sciences associate professor Dale Coleman has developed his own biannual tradition related to the store.
“At the end of each semester, once I’ve posted my last grades and closed my books on the semester, I celebrate by heading to Toomer’s Drugs for a lemonade and a soup/sandwich combo lunch,” he said.
Coleman said most anyone who has yelled ‘War Eagle’ has a Toomer’s lemonade story to share.
“The lemonade helps draw in a real melting pot of every walk of life in Auburn,” he said. “You’ll see students, faculty, administrators, businessmen, politicians—anyone and everyone—all sitting around sharing stories and talking about the happenings of the day. It’s just another big part of the history and lore of being an Auburn Tiger.”