Long-awaited dream now fulfilled for new Trivillian's owner

Monday, August 26, 2019

This story originally appeared in the Charleston Gazette-Mail on Aug. 24, 2019. 

Since 2004, when David Penix began working at Trivillian’s Pharmacy and Soda Fountain as a WVU Pharmacy intern, he dreamed of owning it.

It took 15 years to fulfill, but now he’s living that dream.

“I love this store more than anything,” said Penix. “It’s just so much better than the chains.”

Penix grew up in Kanawha City, where Trivillian’s was already a 50-year-old landmark when he began frequenting it in his late teens, grabbing lunch there nearly every Saturday.

He worked at the 35th Street pharmacy as an intern from 2004 to 2006, and after graduating from WVU’s School of Pharmacy in 2007 and working for nearly four years as a chain store pharmacist, returned to Trivillian’s, where he spent most of the next three years.

After a two-year stint with another chain store pharmacy, Penix returned to Trivillian’s for good in November 2015 as chief pharmacist for previous owner Mark Ros, from whom he bought the business and building three months ago.

Penix also bought the prescription compounding business formerly owned by Loop Pharmacy, in St. Albans, now operated at the Kanawha City pharmacy. Recently retired Loop owner and pharmacist Bill McFarland worked two months at Trivillian’s to help smooth the transition.

Compounded prescriptions involve medicines prescribed at dosages different from those contained in medicines produced by pharmaceutical manufacturers. But humans are not the only consumers of compounded prescriptions, Penix said.

“You wouldn’t believe the amount of medicines for pets that we compound on orders from vets,” he said. “A lot of what they need is not commercially available, so we compound it here, sometimes adding flavors like chicken and tuna.”

Pet medicines account for about half of Trivillian’s compounding business, Penix said.

The diner/soda fountain section of Trivillian’s is brighter, airier and larger than it once was. Well-padded booths line a large window facing 35th Street, with tables and chairs occupying most of store’s retail space. The store’s trademark soda fountain counter and accompanying row of stools remain in service.

The menu has not changed substantially, featuring the staples that have appealed to the drug store’s loyal lunch crowd for decades.

“Our No. 1 seller is hot dogs and fresh, hand-cut fries, and we still make the Long Bob,” said Penix.

The Long Bob, a Trivillian’s menu item for four decades, is a shaved ham and Swiss cheese sandwich made with special-order sesame seed bread that replicates the Long Bob once featured at Bob Phillips Drive-In. That restaurant opened in 1952 near the corner of 39th Street and MacCorkle Avenue, a few blocks east of Trivillian’s, and closed in the 1960s.

Milkshakes, sundaes, floats and cones remain soda fountain staples.

“We may add a few things to the menu, but we’ll keep what we have now,” Penix said, to keep the loyal lunch crowd happy.

Nicholas and Mary Agnes Trivillian, operators of a pharmacy on Quarrier Street in downtown Charleston, opened the two-story art deco drugstore in Kanawha City on Dec. 2, 1950.

Women who were on hand for the pharmacy’s grand opening were each given a rose, while each man in attendance received a free cigar. All were entered in a drawing for a 16-inch television in a solid mahogany cabinet, according to an advertisement for the event that appeared in the Charleston Gazette.

The Trivillians described their new drugstore as “modern in every respect, but homey as your own living room.”