The partnership between Yianni Stamas and Lights Camera Read and NYPL's Columbus Branch Young Adult services begins with our 2014 entrepreneurial series for teens—examining jobs in the real world. Our first event featured native New Yorker Manny Ramirez—no not the baseball player but a Manny who was Ramirez before him.
Manny Ramirez has combined the world of pharmaceutical health with the world of community activism and established himself as a unique and positive force in the northern Manhattan, Inwood Community. I want to thank him for taking time out of his busy schedule to come to the Columbus Library to talk to a contingent of students from the Manhattan Bridges High School presently engaged in the study of work and professional choices they can eventually make in the real world. Manny is an engaging New York City personality, funny, serious, formal and relaxed, but most of all deeply caring. He made us laugh and listen at the same time.
As a person of Hispanic descent Manny forged a deep connection with the Manhattan Bridges students, most of them also Hispanic and many very new to city and the States.
“I own a pharmacy.” Manny told us. “I’m a pharmacist. You’ve seen a million pharmacies, CVS, Rite-Aid—our pharmacy is a little bit different. Regular typical pharmacies, you come get some medicine and in a few days you feel a little bit better. What we’ve done is incorporated an old school soda shop. You’ve seen it in the movies. We try to make it nice and open and inviting for the community. In our culture food is the way we communicate. It’s usually a place where people come and talk chat (in our shop) over some bagels and some ice cream. Sooner or later you’re not going to feel good or you’ll need some advice and that’s where the pharmacy comes in. I get to know you, know your family situation and that’s just the first facet of what we do as a business. To say we’re part of the community and that’s important to me.”
Manny also supports the artists in the community. With writers he holds open mic events and with visual artists decorates the walls of his establishment with their work that can also be purchased by admirers. Manny’s connection with the neighborhood where he was born now goes deeper than that. The pharmacy he now owns Dichter Pharmacy, an Inwood landmark and institution originated in 1923.
Manny’s connection with Dichter Pharmacy began in High School. He got a part time job doing deliveries for 25 cents an hour. Over the years his interest in pharmacuetical work and his salary grew. He went to college and continued working and studying in the field. As fate would have it, he eventually bought the store.
Manny told the Manhattan Bridges students to be willing to start at minimum wage. “People say I don’t want to make $7 an hour but the point is if you work hard you can make more and more money.”
Dichter Pharmacy burned down on January 3, 2012. Manny, who lives in Inwood now, was living in New Jersey at that time. “It was 11:30 at night. I got a phone call at home. They told me your pharmacy is burning down. The whole building is burning down. I got dressed real quick and drove NY. I don’t recommend that—if you have a fire just let it burn down, don’t go see it.”
Manny knew he had to rebuild quickly if he was going to survive and stay out of debt. The community, that he had been so helpful to, rallied around him. "It got on the news and people saw me and my friends called me and created a website for donations and the neighborhood wrapped themselves around me. Donations came in even from the outside the country. There’s no such thing as bad press. It put me on the map and it brought different parts of the neighborhood together. The fire was a terrible thing that ended up being a really good thing. I not only owe the bank but I owe the neighborhood because when I needed them they showed up."
Manny told the students to study hard, take school and job interviews seriously and be willing to work hard and start at the bottom. He also invited everyone to his store for a hello and free doughnut and soda.
Take a quick YouTube tour of Dichter Pharmacy.
Here's a link to a recent article written about Manny in the New York Times.
Again we thank Manny Ramirez for his sharing and caring and wish him and Dichter all the best.