A couple days past Small Business Saturday, 96-year-old Art Olsen had no interest in doing his Christmas shopping at a mall. The Marysville man was eyeing fancy lotions and festive decor Monday at Hilton Pharmacy & Gifts.
The World War II veteran isn’t quite a century old, but the Marysville drugstore is.
It was Dec. 7, 1919, when Jeffrey Hilton Sr. bought the pharmacy from W.E. Mansfield. The drugstore, which dated to 1898, was originally a branch of the Everett Drug Co., and was operated in its early days by W.K. Bartels.
Today, Mary Kirkland owns Hilton Pharmacy. A pharmacist, she’s the great-granddaughter of Jeffrey Hilton Sr. and his wife, Mary. Now 69, she bought Hilton Pharmacy in 1984 from Clyde Lashua, who had worked there when Jeffrey Hilton Jr. owned and operated the store.
“As a young pharmacist, I was working for Clyde Lashua. I bought the store and now I wear lots of hats,” Kirkland said.
On a busy Monday afternoon, she was behind the druggist’s counter answering phone calls. Then she was out in the shop, surrounded by her eclectic merchandise — classic toys and baby clothes, unique holiday items and women’s wardrobe pieces — and the loyal customers she greeted by name.
“Where’s Mary?” Olsen asked as he and his daughter, Sue Mattila, walked into the store.
Linda St. Onge, the store’s buyer, explained how she and Kirkland travel twice a year to Las Vegas for gift and design shows.
“Christmas comes in July,” St. Onge said.
As a deliveryman brought in several big boxes Monday, she said “this is probably Valentine’s Day.”
“It really has evolved,” Kirkland said. What was once “literally a corner drugstore with cosmetics and perfume” has grown to include gourmet treats and other kitchen goods, framed artwork, candles and whimsical gifts. Bearded gnomes in red pointy hats nearly sold out on Small Business Saturday, she said.
The store has changed with the times, as many people get medications at big chain stores or online. With a greater emphasis on gifts and lifestyle merchandise, Hilton’s is also larger than it once was. Now a 4,000-square-foot space owned by Kirkland, for decades the drugstore was in a rectangular area near the front — and it was leased.
Window shoppers find visual treats in Hilton’s storefronts along State and Third. Color-coordinated scenes change with the seasons.
“Peace” says a sign in one holiday window, decorated in white and pale celadon green. Another window is done up in red, with a Christmasy candy-cane look. Next to that is an elegant window styled in black and white.
“People like to shop seasonally,” said Kirkland, who began working at the store in 1969. She and St. Onge pick themes and design the windows together.
Surely, Jeffrey Hilton Sr. would be amazed at what’s become of his little store in the 100 years since he bought it.
He was a farmer, not a pharmacist, Kirkland said. An immigrant from Bolton, England, a former mill town near Manchester, he and a younger brother worked as coal miners in Black Diamond after coming to Washington.
After his brother was killed mining, Hilton Sr. took a boat from Tacoma to Ebey Slough. He and his wife homesteaded in Marysville’s Sunnyside area and later had a bigger farm along 84th Street.
They raised 11 children. Two of them, son Jeffrey Hilton Jr. and daughter Omega, studied pharmacy at the University of Washington, Kirkland said. Hilton Jr. ran the store through the early 1960s.
Kirkland said her great-grandfather “wanted all his children to stay around home.”
“I think that’s why he bought the drugstore, so they’d have a place to work in town,” she said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.