Lobraico's Drug Store
by Alan and Elizabeth Hague
from a series of interviews with Joe and Betty Lobraico in September 2002
Mike Lobraico's father, Joseph Maria Lobraico, came to America from Laurenzana, Italy at age 13 as an indentured immigrant.
He married Judita "Sarah" Pantone in 1884 in Indianapolis.
Mike was born in Indianapolis on April 9, 1894.
He was the fifth of ten children.
Here in an early family picture, Mike is in the lower left corner.
Here are the ten kids with their father, Joe, in a picture taken in the late 1930s.
Mike worked in his father's fruit store before earning his Pharmacy degree in 1912 at the Indianapolis College of Pharmacy.
The college was in the Indiana Trade School where Arsenal Technical High School is now.
His first pharmacist job was at a drug store across from Union Station.
One day when Mike was working at the downtown store, a girl came in and bought the most expensive box of stationery they offered.
She was Ivy Opal Wilson and worked and lived at the Spencer House across the street.
It was love at first sight.
Mike and Ivy married in 1916.
They had seven children, Maria Carmela, Adele Virgina, Marjorie Alice, Joseph Edwards, Delores Ann, Michael Angelo and Mary Judith.
Below, Mike and Ivy relaxing at Riverside Park before they were married.
Mike worked at the Indianapolis Ford plant on the assembly line putting the backs on the Model T.
He worked hard and eventually earned the full pay of $5 per hour.
Mike left Ford and worked as a pharmacist in John Brown's drug store.
In 1923, John Brown loaned Mike and Ivy the money to buy their first store.
It was located on the northeast corner of 12th and West Streets, near Crispus Attucks High School.
He sold it to his brother Frank two years later.
Mike bought Watts Drug Store located at 902 Westfield Boulevard in Indianapolis (formerly the town Broad Ripple) from Frank and Fannie Watts in 1925, when they retired, and renamed it Lobraico's.
His previous employer, John Brown, loaned the money to the Lobraicos.
Mike worked very long hours and was able to pay back the high interest loan in less than five years.
He would open the store at 6am and would stay open "until the last street car went by" around 1am.
Established in 1877, this building was the meeting place for the International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) No. 548.
The lodge met upstairs, Watts Drug Store was in the west half of the ground floor and the Broad Ripple post office and a grocery store was in the east half.
This is an early postcard of Westfield, then named Hancock Street, and the IOOF No. 548.
In the early days of Lobraico's Drug Store there was a stove near the back and a "loafer's" bench.
Men would gather around the stove on cold days.
One day a couple of the men started causing trouble.
Once Mike physically threw them out of the store, there was never any trouble again.
The Great Depression hit just a few years after purchasing the store.
Mike never refused needed prescriptions to anyone, even if they didn't have the money.
That practice did not end with the Depression.
For the rest of his life, if someone needed a prescription but couldn't pay, he would add it to their account.
These accounts were informal and would be "forgotten" if a customer fell on tough times.
Also, if the store was closed and someone needed medicine, he would open it.
He even opened the store on Christmas Day to supply medicine to a sick customer.
It didn't matter if it was a holiday or in the middle of the night, if the doctor called and needed medicine for a sick customer, Mike would open the store.
Before the store closed in 1990, Lobraico's Drugs had filled over one million prescriptions.
In this 1931 photo of the store interior, you can see a post supporting the ceiling next to Ivy.
That is where the dividing wall was that separated the drug store from the grocery/post office.
For a time Lobraico's had a pinball machine.
This was in an era when pinball was looked upon as a gambling device.
Back then, pinball machines did not have flippers and were considered games of chance instead of games of skill.
The machine was removed in a raid, common in this time.
The soda fountain and steam table were added in the 1930's.
Ivy's hand-pounded breaded tenderloin sandwiches were famous and only 10 cents.
The nearby Broad Ripple High School had no cafeteria, so the students would come to Lobraico's for lunch.
Lobraico's even had curb service.
Customers could drive up in front and one of the Lobraicos would come out to take the order.
They served food at the store until one day when an unruly young man (often there to eat) roughed up a female customer.
Mike threw him out and ended the food service.
Mike played trumpet most of his life.
He started out in the Newsboys Band and later played in the Indianapolis Symphony, the Scottish Rite Symphony and the Montani Bros. Band.
Mike was the first Mason to receive a 75 Year Award.
He also received the Sagamore of the Wabash from the Governor of Indiana, the state's highest honor.
Here is Mike receiving an award from Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut in 1980.
The last generation of Lobraico's at the store included Joe, Betty and their three children Mike, Mary and Joe.
Pictured here are Joe and his cousin Carol, Mike and Mary.
In 1986 a man came into the store, approached Mike and stated that he once worked at Lobraico's and had stolen money.
He handed Mike $100 and insisted that he take it.
Although Mike didn't remember the ex-employee, he figured the man wanted to clear his conscience so he took the money.
He never asked his name.
It didn't matter, the wrong had been righted.
Lobraico's closed in 1990 when Mike sold the building to David and Ellen Matthews who owned Chelsea's card and gift shop.
He was nearing his 96th birthday.
Mike died on Sept 9, 1995 at the age of 101.
The Matthew's moved Chelsea's from just a few doors away on Guilford into the Lobraico's location.
Here is how it looked in 2002, with Chelsea's on the main floor and The Red Room upstairs.