Wagner's Pharmacy spreads 'Derby fever'
If you know Churchill Downs, chances are you've heard of the other iconic location right next to it: Wagner's Pharmacy. The love story between the diner and Derby started by chance.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- If you know Churchill Downs, chances are you've heard of the other iconic location right next to it: Wagner's Pharmacy. The love story between the diner and Derby started by chance.
Step inside Wagner's Pharmacy and it only takes a second to feel at home.
"This is the best meal we've had all week, roast beef day on Wednesdays at Wagner's," Steve Ellis said.
It's not just the home cooking.
"I love my job. I do. I love the people. I love the Derby. It's just so exciting and every year it's something different," Pam Pryor, employee of nearly 18 years, said.
Everyone said it comes down to one thing.
"Just about anybody in the racing business comes over here. It's like family," Lee Wagner, Owner of Wagner's Pharmacy, said.
So, like any family get together, you can feel the history.
"You feel horse racing in here for sure," said trainer Chris Hartman.
Nearly every inch of the walls are covered with worldwide media attention and memories. As they say, if they could talk.
"My father has me in here when I was three around the race track. I'm going on 42 now and I still get called little Lee," Wagner said.
Wagner's grandfather opened Wagner's Pharmacy back in 1922.
"We've been on the corner of 4th and Central ever since," Wagner said.
Up until 2014, the Wagners sold medicine for people and horses alike and what started as a small soda fountain in the pharmacy, grew.
"We still manufacture jockey silks, saddle towels, blinkers, we do the race horse liniment but the restaurant has really grown. It's started to take over the pharmacy part."
The dining area is full for lunch and the week of Derby is mayhem.
"A lot of the trainers, a lot of the horsemen, the exercise riders, the jockeys and then we get our everyday businessmen. They're our regulars that come in every day."
To this day, it's one of few places where every day people can rub elbows with the rich and famous, even used as a backdrop for movies, like Secretariat, inspired by true events. Pam Pryor had a role.
The pharmacy's proximity to the track was a coincidence for Lee Wagner's grandfather and father.
"I think they'd probably tell you they never would have thought that that would have happened, but it's neat. I think that's a tribute to all their hard work and time they've put in the place."
A love for their customers and for horse racing just happened.
"It's a place they want to come visit and once they get here, 'we're coming back.' That's what they always tell us. 'We are coming back,'" Pryor said.
"Keep passing out the Derby fever. That was one thing my father was big about was they used to say, 'spreading Derby fever,'" Wagner said.
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