‘Everyone’s Really Caring About Each Other’: Inside A Downtown Drugstore During The Pandemic

Doctors, nurses and first responders aren’t the only front-line workers. Many other New Yorkers are out there trying to keep things working for the rest of us.

The Walgreens/Duane Reade drugstore and pharmacy at 250 Broadway usually serves thousands per day — pharmacist Michael Kyriannis, assistant Nyah Newsome and store manager Arssath Uthumalebbe all work together to help New Yorkers with their prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs and other myriad supplies they need. “We’re very close to our customers,” Uthumalebbe (pictured below, right), told the Downtown Alliance. “We’re used to talking to them about their needs.” 

But since New York City’s on a necessary pause to slow the spread of COVID-19, things feel different along that Downtown stretch of Broadway. Uthumalebbe has had a first-hand view of how neighbors are coping with the new (if temporary) normal. “Everyone is really listening to what they’re supposed to do,” Uthumalebbe said. “Everyone’s really caring about each other.” 

With such faithful adherence to social distancing guidelines, there is definitely a marked difference in the store, which is used to operating at Lower Manhattan’s signature bustling pace. “We used to say things happened in New York minutes — now it’s more like New York days,” he laughed. “I’ve never seen New York City like this.” 

While things in the city are very unusual right now, Uthumalebbe sounded like he’s figured out how to stay upbeat while staying safe. When not running the store and providing the extension of care that all operating city drugstores are offering right now, he enjoys spending time with his family at home. He and his kids are discussing what’s happening in the news a lot. When they need to relax, they like to sing songs together. 

“I want to thank my employees in my store; what amazing employees I have,” Uthumalebbe added. “And I want to say thanks to every citizen of this great city.”