Home' The River Weekly News : RWN 100518 Contents Historic Downtown Fort Myers, Then And Now:
Ryals Drug Store On Hendry
by Gerri Reaves, PhD
This 1935 photo of the interior of Ryals Drug Store evokes
a nostalgia for what drug stores used to be – places to buy
a wide variety of products, not just fill prescriptions.
And then, there was the old-time soda fountain – now
almost extinct – where delights were dished out and socializing
The names of three people in the photo are known, but not
all assigned to faces: Dr. Thomas G. Seay, Ernest Hollis and Dr.
George Emory Ryals.
Troy Atchison, a member of the Hollis family, says that
the family believes that the man standing on the left behind a
display and wearing a tie is Ernest Hollis. Other photographic evidence confirms that
The photo was taken the year after Dr. George E. Ryals moved his drug store to
a 1925 building on Hendry Street, a mid-block double storefront. Ryals occupied the
north half that was adjacent to the south wall of the Robb & Stucky Building.
Ryals had come to Fort Myers from Georgia in 1920. For several years, he worked
as a phar macist at Hunter’s Drug Store in the Bradford Building.
Later that decade, he established the first Ryal’s Drug Store on Hendry near
Anderson Avenue (now named Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard).
The store adopted the advertising phrase, “A Good Drug Store,” which it used for
years, and announced that it was a distributor for Sparton Radios.
In March 1934, the business moved to the location pictured here and held a
“housewarming.” The promise of “free gifts” in the ad/invitation must have been
especially appealing in the Great Depression.
In addition to a pharmacy, the store offered much of what’s in evidence in the
historic photo: sundries, colognes, a modern soda fountain, candies and more.
Products on sale or
displayed in posters
Kodak film, Vick’s
Vapor Rub, Tom’s
Peanuts, Tums, Alka-
Seltzer and, of course,
Coca-Cola – all familiar
products or companies
still around today.
At first, the drug
store shared the
with a shoe-repair shop
on the other side, but
then Longmire Printing
Service moved in and
stayed until the early
One person with
good memories of
Ryals was the late Tom
“Tinker” Stewart, who,
because his father
owned Stewart’s Drug
Store around the corner
on Main Street, spent
much of his childhood
discovering and reveling
in the downtown scene.
He was confined
to the block in his
wanderings, he recalled
in 2009, but as a self-
described “urchin” was
otherwise allowed to
In the late 1930s, the
store was “a haven for the funny book [aka comics] reader” because the employees
allowed the boys to read without paying.
He and other barefoot friends deemed it one of their “most favorite places to go
and waste time.” High praise from a young boy!
He remembers Dorothy Hollis, wife of Ernest, and her sister as particularly
sympathetic. Dr. Ryals mostly ignored him, Stewart remembered, but there was one
male clerk who used to run him off the premises.
After Ryals died in 1941 at age 53, his cousin, Ernest Hollis, carried on the
business for several years.
In 1949, however, it underwent a transformation from Ryal’s to The Hollis Place.
It sold customers’ “fountain favorites,” in addition to cameras and supplies,
magazines, and so on. The prescription service was discontinued, apparently, but
something was added: a connection with Charles Hollis’s expert radio repair service.
Evidently, the new venture didn’t last long, for the Ryals half of the building was
In the early 1950s, Echelbarger Jewelry moved into the storefront, and Parker’s
Book Store used the other side as a store room, which it did for many years.
Also early in that decade, Ernest Hollis was working at Franklin Hardware at First
continued on page 8
THE RIVER - OCTOBER 5, 2018
Today, a copy center occupies the former Ryals storefront in a
restored 1925 building
photo by Gerri Reaves
When this 1935 photo was taken, Ryals Drug Store had been at this location for about a
year. Among those pictured are Dr. Seay, Dr. George Emory Ryals and Ernest Hollis, who is
standing on the left behind a display and wearing a tie.
photo courtesy Troy Atchison and the SWFL Historical Society
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Ross Hauser, MD
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Gerri Reaves, PhD
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