BADT’S PHARMACY… was a longtime family, multi-generational fixture in Coloma. (Photo courtesy of the North Berrien Historical Museum)
Do you remember Badt’s Drug Store?
By Angela Widdis The northwest corner of N. Paw Paw Street and Badt Drive in Coloma has seen its share of building changes and there is more to come. The 7,140 sq. ft. commercial building with on-site private parking lot on Coloma’s main street had been a drug store for most of the 20th Century. Formally known as Badt’s Super Drug Store this location was more recently the home of the Family Dollar store that relocated across the street. However, changes are being made to welcome a new business to town. Badts’ drug stores get their start While most family-owned businesses cannot successfully transition to the next generation, the Badt family defeated the odds by operating businesses to the third generation; a legacy that started with Mr. Sam Badt, where he operated a store in Mena, Arkansas. Following in their father’s footsteps, Mendel Badt with his brother, Jesse Badt, opened a drug store in Benton Harbor in 1926. One year later another location in Benton Harbor was opened and in 1929, they opened a third location in St Joseph. In 1944, they sold the business on East Main Street in Benton Harbor followed by the other stores being sold in 1953 to start a new adventure. Coloma location Mendel Badt who resided on Paw Paw Island, had owned and operated the Rexall pharmacy in Coloma with his wife, Pearl, since 1953 when they bought Scott’s Drug Store from Clifford Hanson, a nephew of the former owner, Fred L. Scott. The purchase occurred on March 31, 1953, and then Mendel re-opened the location as Badt’s Pharmacy, the very next day. On September 1, of that same year, Gene Rennhack joined in the business venture with the Badt family; a partnership that would last for more than 37 years. In 1957, Marshall Badt, son of Mendel and Pearl, joined the business as a co-owner and pharmacist just after he graduated from the University of Michigan. A year later his brother, Leonard Badt, joined the business as well. Leonard moved to Ojai, California to open his own drug store about nine years later. Mendel died in 1969, Pearl however, remained active in the business until her death in 1978; leaving the business in the hands of their son, Marshall, as the President and Treasurer and Rennhack, as the Vice-President and Secretary. Badt’s Pharmacy, Inc. Other acquisitions for Badt’s Pharmacy, Inc. included: Stancik’s Village Drug Store in Stevensville in 1981 and the 1983 purchase of Gard’s Pharmacy in Hartford. It was during this time when a cousin, Ernest Badt, formally a pharmacist at Memorial Hospital, joined the team as a pharmacist to help with the expansions. Marshall was the president of Badt’s Pharmacy Inc., which operated from its incorporation until October of 1986. At that time, the Coloma location was sold to Rite Aid, as the mounting competition from national pharmacy retailers grew. In 1990, Marshall Badt passed away, and he is survived by his wife Freyda (Freddie) who still resides in the Berrien County area. The couple’s children are: Deb Badt-Covell, Marty Badt, and the late, Janet Badt. Deb resides in Sparta, with her husband of 15 years, Royce. Marty, lives in a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with his wife, Rachel, and their daughter, Millie. Family memories Badt-Covell states, “My family has enjoyed serving the public for many years and we’ve appreciated past employees, customers and vendors. The demolition of the building is bittersweet; but we are happy that it isn’t sitting empty any longer and grateful for a stable, reputable buyer. Hopefully, whatever goes into that space will be wonderful for the town, for many years to come!” The Badts’ legacy has been felt in many cities across Berrien County and well into Van Buren. Many can remember being in at least one of the locations of the Badts’ drug stores that was known for their home-town service. While reminiscing, Deb stated that she remembers several times growing up when there were snowstorms. She commented, “It wasn’t uncommon for him (her dad) to get a call in the middle of the night by law enforcement, to fill an emergency Rx. They’d pick him up by snowmobile!” This was the type of customer service that made loyal customers at each of their locations. Another recollection of Deb’s was the silly sayings and made-up words that their father would say to the customers. She wrote, “He’d frequently say, ‘How’s your ‘cospirosity?’” She continued, “They’d look at him dumbfounded, and he’d say, ‘Well, it looks fine to me!’” Marshall Badt was more than the local pharmacist; he was a man with a passion to make people feel better. Today, we are reminded that many home town businesses are losing their fight against these big box stores. Yet, the memories that were exposed when making way for the next occupant could never destroy the feelings that are conjured up when someone says, “Do you remember Badt’s Drug Store?”