Mills is a comprehensive, two-phase renovation and expansion of a neighborhood fixture. Originally a family-owned pharmacy, opened in 1946, it featured a 13-seat soda fountain and served the surrounding neighborhood for generations. More than 60 years after it’s opening, Mills Pharmacy underwent a major transformation with new family ownership and expanded services, from a full-service pharmacy to a beauty and wellness boutique with an adjoining market.
Set within an existing retail strip at the edge of a residential district, the original 3000 square foot pharmacy was expanded into an adjacent market space twice its size. The ground floor retail spaces were combined and reconfigured along the street frontage and are linked to the rear entry (used by the neighborhood and the majority of clients arriving by automobile) through a single corridor lined with over-the-counter products along one side. Unlike a traditional pharmacy where a pharmacist is often positioned at the rear, often elevated above the main floor, the pharmacy counter is centrally located, allowing the pharmacist to acknowledge clients as they enter through both the front and rear entryways from the same ground plane. Supporting activities, including a compounding lab and long-term-care pharmacy are connected by an office. Which is illuminated by a single sky above, providing indirect illumination to spaces on either side through sandblasted glass walls and doors.
Ordinary materials were chosen to seem familiar while wearing gracefully. The pharmacy wall, which starts out as a proscenium, before wrapping around and becoming a backdrop in the apothecary, is finished with a lightly skip-troweled plaster, suggesting an aspirin-like finish. Pre-weathered copper panels frame a new opening and reworked entryway street side, while a metallic glazed brick recalls the alchemy of the pharmacist. Reclaimed oak, milled and stained, are worn without overselling themselves as antique. Built-in millwork cabinets alternate between various plywood grades: a white panel commonly used for highway signs, a black slip-resistant veneer, and common fir plywood in the market lining both ends to create a wall of candy. Stand-alone displays are fabricated from hot rolled metal frames and laser cut steel shelves. A new, burnished concrete floor unites all of the new public spaces for clients.
The site proved particularly challenging, given a number of existing structural conditions, bearing walls and grade changes. The project sought an organization that took advantage of these obstacles for spatial and experiential benefit, suggesting a subtle interplay of mass, depth and surface. Destined to once again become a well-worn neighborhood staple.