Bank Street fire closes Glebe Apothecary

Caption: A three-alarm fire on March 24 has closed the Glebe Apothecary indefinitely. Clients may pick up prescriptions at the nearby Shoppers Drugmart at Bank and Glebe Avenue.

By John Crump, with Glebe Report files


Police cars, lights flashing, blocked intersections on Bank Street as fire trucks from around the city responded to a three-alarm fire at the Glebe Apothecary on the cold Sunday morning of March 24.

Smoke billowed from a large hole cut by firefighters attacking the blaze from the roof of the building. A thick beige hose snaked from a fire hydrant in front of the city parking garage and up a ladder that extended from a fire truck where it was aimed into the attic where the fire had taken hold.

Out on Bank Street, smoke swirled into the bright blue sky from the second-floor office windows above the Apothecary. Said bystander Bhagwant Sandu, “I could smell the smoke from as far north as Patterson and as far south as Holmwood.”

Three ladders were raised to the upper storey windows, one of which had been broken to allow crews to enter. From the street, it was possible to see firefighters at work in the damaged office, their oxygen tanks reflecting the early morning light.

People watched the action from across the street, among them several employees of McKeen Metro who were driven from the grocery store by the smoke from the fire next door. Watcher Randal Marlin commented, “Around 9 a.m., there was an incredible number of emergency vehicles, lights flashing on Bank Street starting from about Glebe Avenue down to about Fourth Avenue. Considering how the damage was localized, it is a wonder that so many vehicles and manpower were required. Maybe it was for training, or for extra security. The result was certainly welcome: a very orderly, controlled, fire-containing action, without the impediment of traffic passing along Bank Street.” And Chris McNaught reflected that “such an incident and all the gathered observers accentuates how special and valued local services are.”

McKeen Metro was closed the day of the fire, but re-opened the next day, albeit with deli and in-store bakery closed temporarily. The Glebe Community Association issued an email update about Metro reopening, as it is a key community amenity.

The pharmacy will be closed for an unspecified period. Clients needing prescriptions can pick them up at the Shoppers Drug Mart on the corner of Bank and Glebe Avenue.

According to media reports, the fire caused approximately $700,000 in damage. The Glebe Report contacted the Ottawa Police Service about the suspected cause and was told there is no comment while the fire is being investigated. Media reports have posited possible arson.

The pharmacist/owner of the Glebe Apothecary, Zenah Surani, who took over the Shopper Drug Mart franchise in 2014, was instructed to redirect inquiries to the Loblaw PR department. Loblaw owns Shoppers Drug Mart. The Glebe Report submitted a list of questions to the PR department, including about plans for reopening the store and what is happening to the Apothecary staff – are they being transferred to other locations or being laid off? And are there indications of possible arson?

No response was received by press time.


John Crump is a former journalist and public servant and also serves as president of the Glebe Community Association. He witnessed the fire.


Please box as sidebar:


Forty years of the Glebe Apothecary

By Claudia McKeen


When I sold my pharmacy to Shoppers Drug Mart in 2011, I was so delighted that they would carry it on as the Glebe Apothecary.

In my early 20s, right out of University of Toronto Pharmacy Faculty, I began preparing myself to start a new business of my own. Since I was 17, I had known I wanted to be a pharmacist and own my own business. After Alan Forhan turned down my request to buy his business (Forhan’s Pharmacy), I began to look around the Glebe. In 1984, 40 years ago, I opened the Glebe Apothecary at the corner of Bank and Glebe, where La Strada is today. In 1988, I moved the business to its current location.

The community from far and wide supported me, and my team grew to be a staff of 32 by the time I sold it. It became a vibrant and vital business, and in turn we supported the community whenever we were asked to.

As I watched the brave firefighters tame the fire on March 24 as water poured through the building, I felt an overwhelming sadness. Will the Glebe Apothecary rise again from the ashes? Can the building be restored quickly enough to maintain the business, or will someone have to start all over again like I did? Or will my baby finally be in the archives of The Lost Glebe Businesses? Only time will tell.


Claudia McKeen is a retired pharmacist who founded the Glebe Apothecary in 1984.

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