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Dear Vance: Judging from the tiles at the entrance, the Pyramid Beauty School at 1292 Madison was once a drugstore, but what was its name?
— D.B., Memphis.
Dear D.B.: It’s really nice tilework, isn’t it, with the elaborate border and crosses. I love these mosaic entrances to old businesses. And thanks to city directories, answering your query was relatively easy and painless compared to that “School Spirits” thing.
In 1910 or 1911, John Sheehan opened a pharmacy at 1292 Madison. This was a rather large and impressive English Tudor-style building, and the other half of the building was occupied by a grocer named H.O. Snead. The second floor was residential, and even though many shopkeepers lived above their stores in those days, a fellow named J.C. Rollins — occupation unknown, I’m sorry to say — lived there in the early 1920s.
John Sheehan and his wife, Margaret, lived near Overton Park in a nice home at 311 Buena Vista.
Sheehan’s Pharmacy stayed in business until 1936. I don’t know why he closed his drugstore. After that, the telephone directories list him as a “floorman,” whatever that means (they don’t say where he worked), and he held various other jobs until his death in 1961 at the age of 77.
The western half of the building was then taken over by a women’s clothing store with the curious name of Nad-Rox. In the 1960s, the space housed Uniforms by Mildred Gay, and in the 1980s Winston’s English Antiques moved in. In more recent years, as you noticed, it’s been home to the Pyramid Beauty School.
And the other side? After Snead moved out, a series of small businesses moved in over the years: Eureka Vacuum in the 1920s, Little Bit’s Beauty Salon in the 1930s, Southern Blind and Shade in the 1940s, and King Orthopedic Supplies from the 1950s through the 1970s.
What really intrigues me about this quaint old building, however, is the name “JETER” spelled out in stone above a second-floor window. Who was Jeter and what was his connection to this property? Oops, out of room. I’ll save that story for another day.