You Know Vinnie at White’s Pharmacy, Right?

A Springs resident filling a prescription at White’s on Main Street in East Hampton incidentally mentions to the pharmacist, Vincent Alibrandi, that she’s just had a book published. And lo! She’s invited to bring in copies. And lo! He winds up selling more than the local bookstore did.

On another occasion he’s working with the husband of a breast cancer patient who can’t afford a chemotherapy drug, contacting the insurance and manufacturing companies to ensure that she gets what she needs, immediately. He knows most of his regulars by first name, and they know him, calling him simply—and lovingly—“Vinnie.” Though the 47-year-old former owner sold the business to a city-based group last year (White’s is still a tenant in the 138-year-old building), Alibrandi continues to be a main attraction. Not to worry, though—he’s not going anywhere, and he notes that he checked out the new owners, wanting to feel that they would be as supportive a presence in their new community as they are in Brooklyn.

He’s pleased with his exclusive role as pharmacist, he says, because he will now be able to devote more time to volunteer and charity work in the area, something he found increasingly difficult to do, especially in summer, traveling from his home in East Northport.

Alibrandi grew up in East Northport, drifted west to St. John’s University College of Pharmacy, then settled in his old hometown with his wife and three daughters. He takes his girls to soccer and music practice and, when he can, does some biking and light reading. But much of his time seems to be spent thinking up new ways to make sure White’s continues to be seen as a welcoming and affordable store. Tourists who discover it in summer are unaware, for example, that the pharmacy’s prices are competitive.

Alibrandi is particularly pleased that, when he took over 13 years ago, he removed the upper platform in the rear of the store, an area that typically serves as a separating nook in pharmacies. He smiles; in removing the tier, he “got down on the people’s level.” The staff adores him for his upbeat attitude, old-fashioned personal care and regard for community. Leslie Donovan, a Southampton resident, designs the attractive window displays that sometimes include the imaginative work of her husband, steampunk artist Art Donovan.

Nora Hajko, a cosmetician who’s worked with Alibrandi over the years, says he treats staff like family. Jessie Medina, in cosmetic sales, remembers that when she was just a customer, he would greet her with, “Hey, whatcha need, what can I do?” And he didn’t just mean her—he would also ask about her stepchildren and fiancé. His friendly manner invites customers to open up—if they want to. Even as he conducts an interview, he keeps an eye out on folks who drift to the back of the store to see him, managing to be courteous all around. He speaks of being sensitive to Main Street, to making sure that White’s “fits in” with the tenor of the place and the kind of customers who keep coming, some of them third and fourth-generation. He chats them up, they chat him up. A 90–plus year old man recently recalled White’s from the old days when he had been a soda jerk there.

The staff takes the cue, greeting entering customers with a relaxed “May I help you?” then discreetly backing off, but it’s those first moments that define the ambiance of the place, he says.

As a kid, he worked in a pharmacy up island and decided he liked the health care profession. In the 27 years he’s been in the field he’s seen a lot of changes, “most of them for the good—better care, better technology, better products.” He cites particularly the dramatic shift in the survival rate of patents with HIV. He’s seen them, treated them, no doubt watched some of them die. But he’s manifestly pleased to be part of a profession that’s making a difference.  To be sure, going to White’s for many means going to “Vinnie’s.”

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