As always, click the pic for full size

Winston-Salem Journal, November 10, 1922

Dr. Vines O. Thompson came to Winston in 1874 from Vance County and established a medical practice. That same year, he opened Winston’s first drugstore in a building on the west side of the square near where the Pepper Building is located today. Around 1880, he dropped his medical practice to focus on the drug business and moved to Fourth Street opposite the courthouse. In 1912, he moved the business next door to the corner of Fourth and Liberty Streets.

Fourth at Liberty, c 1912-13

This placed him directly across Liberty Street from the O’Hanlon Drugstore. The soda fountains of those two stores became the center of the Winston universe, because they were visited daily by a most diverse assemblage, consisting of farmers from the surrounding area, shop girls and store clerks, police officers, railway conductors and streetcar motormen, politicians, lawyers, teachers and preachers, high school students, and, of course, R.J. Reynolds, P.H. Hanes, Colonel Francis Fries, the Gray brothers and other leading citizens…all bearing bits and pieces of gossip and news from their own corners of the local universe.

O’Hanlon’s soda shop (seen here) and the one across the street at Thompson’s were the local newsroom and rumor mill…Forsyth County Public Library Picture Collection…

When Thompson died in 1905, his son, Peter A. Thompson took over the business. He retired in 1917 and moved to California, selling the business to Allison A. James and Dr. Frank Lunn, a 1912 graduate of the UNC school of pharmacy. They continued the business as the Thompson Drug Company. In 1922, out of space, they moved the business to West Fifth Street across from the US Post Office and directly across Liberty from the soon to become State Theater where they would continue to prosper for many years. In the late 1920s / early 1930s, Thompson Drug opened a second store at 103 South Hawthorne Road in Ardmore and a third at the corner of Patterson Avenue and Glenn Avenue. But by the mid-1930s, the Thompson Drug Company had been sold off to several independent druggists.

Allison James

Frank Lunn

In those days, all drugstores sold cigars. But only one in the entire state sold cigars that they also made. From the start, V.O. Thompson, a cigar aficionado, had been unhappy with the quality of cigars available locally. In 1883, he met Isadore Leopold, a New Yorker who had been operating North Carolina’s only cigar factory in Raleigh. The two formed a partnership, leased the former Winston Male Academy building on Third Street, just behind the current Our Lady of Fatima chapel, and, in January, 1884, opened the V.O. Thompson Cigar Company.

Leopold arranged to import Vuelta Abajo, the queen of Cuban tobaccos, along with large supplies of Connecticut burley. Business boomed from the start. In 1887, Leopold purchased a machine that could make 3,000 cigars a day, while 8-10 highly skilled hand rollers continued to make the upper end stuff. By 1888, they were producing 100,000 cigars a week.

The most popular brands were Wachovia, Queen of Sumatra, J.C.B. (a genuine 5¢ Habano) and The Winston Leader, named for a local newspaper whose publisher, James A. Robinson, was Leopold’s greatest booster. Robinson was also probably the best writer to publish in any local paper in the 19th century.

One day in late October, 1889, Leopold was taken ill as he was leaving the factory for home. Assistance was summoned, but he died a few days later, on October 29, of Bright’s disease. He was only 41 years old. He had trained his workers well and his wife Rachel was able to continue the business for a few years. But shortly after Dr. Thompson’s death in 1905, the business expired.

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