Gazette Article by: Teresa Hara
Appeared in the Gazette: Fall 2009
Updated 8-19-2020 by: Mary Trieschmann
In the midst of the Great Depression, a pharmacist named Leo Conney found an opportunity to provide a better life for his family by purchasing an existing pharmacy in Winnetka. Leo and Celia Conney moved here in 1937.
The pharmacy was located on Elm Street next to the train tracks and had a small lunch counter. Dr. Conney’s son, Allan, worked there as a child for 10 cents an hour and all the ice cream he could eat. Unfortunately, in 1940 a fire destroyed the building and their business. In the midst of this misfortune, the Conneys’ number one priority was their customers. Within 10 days, they were able to reopen next door to provide prescriptions and a full-service drug store.
Due to the reconfiguration of the railroad tracks below street level and the extension of Lincoln Avenue, the business was later rebuilt in an adjacent building. The business doubled in size in 1959 when it expanded into the space to the east, at 736 Elm Street where it stands today. The lunch counter was not part of the new business but a small cosmetics counter was added and Mrs. Conney worked alongside her husband in the family business at a time when women generally did not work outside the home. The hours were long but the Conneys were committed to their customers. Dr. Conney was known for going in to fill prescriptions for sick children in the middle of the night.
Dr. Conney and his wife were well-liked by their neighbors and were active in the community. The Conney children, Allan and Ruth, enjoyed life in Winnetka and at New Trier. Allan Conney followed his father into pharmacology becoming a world-renowned pharmacologist and cancer researcher at Rutgers University Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy. His decades of research demonstrated that such common sense activities as drinking green tea and getting more exercise may help prevent the spread of cancer. Allan passed away on September 10, 2013 at the age of 83.
Leo Conney sold the business upon his retirement in 1973. Because of the pharmacy’s history and reputation for stellar customer service in Winnetka and the surrounding communities, the name Conney’s Pharmacy remains today.