Rowan Brinston celebrates 60 years with Beemons and soon hitting 90 years of living
Rowan Brinston joined Beemon Drugs in 1958, the iconic pharmacy sold ice cream, had a soda fountain and a grill.
Sixty years later he misses the hamburgers. They were “good eating.”
But he doesn’t miss his first delivery truck, a panel van with one seat and no air conditioning, he would use to rush ice cream before it melted to kids who had just had their tonsils removed.
“We stopped the ice cream in the early 1970s,” he said. “I was glad when that went out.”
While Beemon Drugs no longer sells ice cream, and the fountain and grill are long gone, Brinston is still going strong.
On April 28, the longtime delivery driver will mark his 60th year at the Northeast Jackson establishment.
And on May 27th, he’ll celebrate his 90th birthday.
Nothing special is planned for Brinston’s anniversary. He and his boss, Beemon’s owner Lester Hailey, are off that day. But the pharmacy will do something special for Brinston’s birthday.
The 89-year-old still makes about 20 deliveries a day, checks in stocks and performs other duties - pretty much everything except filling prescriptions.
“I don’t bother that,” he said.
The secret to his longevity is his outlook, “being nice and treating everybody good,” he said. “I always try to keep myself in good shape with the people I work with. We get someone new in and I train them to my satisfaction,” he said.
“I tell people I’ve been working for Mr. Brinston for 40 years,” Hailey said.
Brinston was born in Philadelphia to Luther and Christine Brinston, and was one of six children. He went to school in Claiborne County and served in the United States Army from 1951 to 1956, although he did not go to Korea.
During that conflict, he served stateside at camps in Texas, Massachusetts and California.
After the army, he returned home and moved to Jackson when his parents moved here after giving up farming.
“They sold all their livestock and equipment and weren’t farming no more. My mom’s cousin told her to move up here with her,” he said.
He joined Beemon’s in 1958, the same year he married Helen, his wife of nearly 60 years. (Their anniversary is coming up, too.)
“When I came here, I wasn’t married, but there was a baby coming up, so I got married,” he said.
Together, Brinston and his wife have five children, Rowan Jr., the oldest, followed by Clyde, Alvin, Deonte and DeMario; 12 grandchildren; and a few great-grandchildren. The two attend Johnson Chapel Baptist Church.
Beemon-Brent’s opened at Maywood Mart in 1956. In 1960, Fred Beemon bought out co-owner Alvin Brent and the name was changed to Beemon Drugs.
“It was in the country when I started. The city line ended at Chastain (Middle School),” he said. “There was a field where Highland Village is. There was a house in the middle of it, but you wouldn’t know it was there.”
Brinston knows every street on his delivery route not only because he’s driven them for years, but also because he remembers seeing them built.
“He’s our historian,” Hailey said.
Hailey joined the store in 1977, bought a stake in the company in 1987. Hailey purchased the remaining stake in the company after Ed Shows retired “12 to 13 years ago,” he said.
For years, Beemon’s was one of several independent drug stores on the Northside, most of whom provided delivery service. Today, most of those stores have been replaced by chains stores, like Walgreen’s, CVS and Rite Aid.
Beemon’s stays competitive because it offers home delivery.
“A lot of the chains will go to nursing homes and assisted living ...” Hailey said.
“But they don’t go to people’s homes like we do,” said Brinston.
Customers seeking home delivery are all ages and come from every walk of life. Brintson takes prescriptions to retired individuals, parents with young children and middle-aged professionals who simply don’t have time to stop by the store.
And while retirement has crossed his mind, Brinston plans to work as long as he is “feeling good.”
He’s still breaking in his current delivery truck, a gray 2006 Ford Ranger. The single-cab vehicle has more than 240,000 miles, but still “runs like a jet.”
Plus, the air conditioner works.
“My last one had 250,000 miles. The air conditioner went out, and we (found out) it would take $1,400 to fix, so (Hailey) traded it in for a good deal at East Ford,” Brintson recalled.
Even so, he is now driving just every other week, splitting duties with William Mills, “a young man in his 70s,” Hailey said.
Brinston isn’t worried about the young whippersnapper taking his job.
Said Brinston, “I brought him in.”