Remembering Irv Rosenberg, Co-Founder of The Apothecary

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Irv Rosenberg (center) with Brian Riordan, Dave Olson and Ron Keech, long-time Village Green employees who worked for many years with Irv at The Apothecary.
Irv Rosenberg (center) with Brian Riordan, Dave Olson and Ron Keech, long-time Village Green employees who worked for many years with Irv at The Apothecary.

Irv Rosenberg, one of the founders of our unique, integrative pharmacy, originally called The Apothecary, passed away on May 14, 2018. The pharmacy, located in Bethesda, MD, is now known as Village Green Apothecary, but many people still remember when the original store was opened in 1965 by Irv and his partner, Mickey Weinstein (who passed 6 years ago). Irv and Mickey called themselves “nutritional pharmacists” and The Apothecary was known as a place where customers often came in search of nutritional supplements, homeopathic remedies, herbs and information. The Apothecary also filled traditional pharmacy prescriptions, as well as less conventional scripts for specialized compounded formulas.

Ron Keech, Village Green’s head compounding pharmacist, who has been with the business since starting his pharmacy career in 1977, says, “If Village Green had a flag it would be at half staff. Irv was a character. Tough exterior but with a heart of gold. If you worked hard he rewarded you and he was always willing to pitch in to help out. Mickey and Irv were way ahead of the other pharmacies back in the ’70s. Got rid of soda and cigarettes. Were the first to carry supplements. Started patient records and patient counseling.”

Our lead nutrition advisor, Brian Riordan, known to most of our customers because of his extensive knowledge and long-time presence on our sales floor, remembers Irv in this way: “Irv Rosenberg was my mentor, I would not be who I am today without his guidance and passion for driving me to commit to my continuing education. He taught me about people, building relationships, running this business, management, and many other aspects of life over nearly the 30 years I worked with him. Truly a visionary, a compassionate man with drive to educate and help people with their health and wellness. He will be missed dearly.”

I worked with Irv for 2 years. I like to say that he gave me wings. He was always supportive and encouraging. He truly will be missed,” says Phyllis Wakeley, who now manages our customer call center at the store.

Marc Isaacson, Village Green’s current owner, says, “I was so fortunate to meet Irv and his partner Mickey 16 years ago and to be able to become the steward of the business they created. As I’ve said for many years, we’ve worked hard to keep with their vision to provide the best products along with tremendous staff that understands nutrition and healthy living, as good or better than anywhere else in the country. When Irv and Mickey started to promote and educate their customers about nutrition, they were considered crazy, but now years later, they were clearly visionaries. Irv greatly impacted many thousands of lives for the better.”

Irv’s funeral will be held Thursday May 17 at 12:00 noon, at 11800 New Hampshire Ave, in Silver Spring, MD (near White Oak). For those who wish to send a donation, the family is requesting they be sent to: St. Ignatius Fund, Inc., c/o Barbara Conetta, 36 Janes Lane, Stamford CT 06903.

To read more about Irv and Mickey and their pioneering role in establishing The Apothecary, here is an old article with some nice history, reprinted with permission of the author. (Our best guess is that this story was published in the Montgomery County Gazette in 1995.)

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The Apothecary in Bethesda Celebrates 30th Anniversary
Rest of the world is catching up to shop’s approach

by Myra Mensh Patner

Mickey Weinstein and Irv Rosenberg practice what they preach. The two unconventional pharmacists – who are celebrating the 30th anniversary this year of their nutrition-oriented drug store, The Apothecary, at 5415 Cedar Lane in Bethesda – load up on enzymes, vitamins and minerals every morning and evening when they eat breakfast and dinner.

Rosenberg, who routinely swallows as many as 16 capsules of multivitamins, calcium, magnesium, boron, silica and other supplements, used to think taking such compounds was “a form of insurance,” he said in an interview last week.

“Today, the supplements are a necessity,” he said, due to “the degradation of our food supplies.” American food “is devalued by processing and fillers, its nutrients depleted. There’s less than two percent of the original nutrition left. We have to make up for that,” said Rosenberg.

That perspective has made the Apothecary – which Weinstein and Rosenberg opened in 1965 – one of the few pharmacies in the Washington area offering an alternative approach to healing that stresses improving health through nutritional supplements rather than through standard synthetic medicine.

Rosenberg, who was named the innovative pharmacist of the year in 1995 by the Maryland Pharmaceutical Association and who served for three years as a nutritional consultant to the Washington Redskins, said the nutritional approach is rewarding because “people get well. They change their lifestyle so they stay well.”

He added, “Fifteen to twenty years ago, I was called a quack by doctors. Today I’m called a visionary.”

Located across the street from the National Institute of Health, the Apothecary stocks a huge array of herbal remedies, vitamins, minerals and homeopathic products, including products not carried by standard drugstores. The Apothecary was the first drug store in the Washington area to stock Nystatin to use orally for digestive problems, said Weinstein.

Calling themselves “nutritional pharmacists,” Weinstein, 61, and Rosenberg, 64, are also known for the extensive nutritional counseling each offers without charge to customers seeking to improve health through natural diet.

“We will recommend vitamins and minerals specifically tailored to a person’s needs that couldn’t be found over the counter in a prepared manner,” said Weinstein, who lives in North Bethesda and is a graduate of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. “People come here looking for guidance and advice and we are able to give it to them.”

Rosenberg, who has a degree from the George Washington University School of Pharmacy and lives in Derwood, will even write out specific health protocols for customers.

The Apothecary has also become known for blending custom prescriptions to order, free of coloring, fillers, binders and sweeteners found in many products made by drug companies. A common request is for antibiotics without coloring for children allergic to chemicals used in some standard prescriptions.

The Apothecary also carries a large selection of books on holistic medicine and is one of the few drugstores that will deliver to customers either door-to-door or through UPS.

Dr. James Brodsky, who blends traditional internal medicine with a holistic approach in his Friendship Heights office, said he often refers patients to The Apothecary. “They will bend over backward to help people with special situations who need to have customized prescriptions,” said Brodsky.

The Apothecary has an international following, Weinstein said, often shipping custom blended medicines and supplements to Holland, Canada, France and elsewhere. “We’ve delivered to every continent except Antarctica,” said Weinstein.

Weinstein and Rosenberg said they had no idea they would veer in the direction of holistic or alternative medicine when they opened three decades ago. The two met as young druggists working for the former Drug Fair chain, but realized they were not happy selling clothes, fertilizers, clothes and lawnmowers along with filling prescriptions. “We decided we would like to do more prescription consultation,” said Weinstein. “We wanted to talk face-to-face with patients. We wanted the personal touch.

But as their business developed, the two men noticed over and over again that customers were complaining about the side effects of prescription medicine. “Sometimes it seemed they were taking medicines to cure the side effects of other medicines,” recalls Weinstein. “It seemed to us there should be a better way.”

Soon, research led the two men to believe that natural practices, such as diet and exercise and supplements, could lessen many ills. Over time, they found they were filling fewer and fewer prescriptions and selling more and more supplements. Today, selling supplements makes up about 75 percent of their business, while filling traditional prescriptions makes up about 20 percent.

The two emphasize that the supplements they recommend should complement rather that replace standard medical treatment. Though their approach was considered unconventional several years ago, Weinstein and Rosenberg say the rest of the world is coming around to their way of thinking. “Today, doctors who used to ridicule the idea of nutritional supplements will say “why not?” said Weinstein.  There’s been a shift.”

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