New Boyle Heights Walgreens divides a family of pharmacists

Photo by Ano Lobb/flickr

When Walgreens prepared to open a new Boyle Heights store earlier this year on Cesar Chavez Avenue, the drug store chain approached Michael Ramirez, who owns the nearby Farmacia Ramirez, about buying him out. Ramirez, whose father, Eddie, founded the pharmacy more than 30 years ago, rejected the offer. But his brother, Roberto, who ran the Ramirez First Street Pharmacy in neighboring East Los Angeles, not only sold his customer accounts to Walgreens, he closed his own store  to work in Walgreen’s new Boyle Heights outlet, which competes with his brother’s pharmacy located a block away, reports EGP News.

Things have become even more awkward between the two brothers after a display featuring a photo of their father was installed inside the Walgreens that opened last summer at the corner of Cesar Chavez and Breed Street. A banner was also hung welcoming customers of the “Ramirez First Pharmacy” and “Farmacia Ramirez.” The chain said the installation of the banner and photo were approved by  Roberto Ramirez, who joined the new store in September, and his mother.

Michael said he not angry at his brother for joining the competition but he told EGP that the sight of the banner and photo of his father at the new Walgreens store is upsetting and confusing to customers:

“They are trying to capitalize on my name, my hard work. I’ve been here for 34 years with my dad,” he said. “Just because you have permission doesn’t mean it’s right.”

Michael said he is looking to take legal action against the chain. Roberto, his brother, said he has no problems with the display.


  1. What legal action??? You mean from a lawyer who will take it up the ass for a couple dollars? The area is improving and finally not a total embarrassment at last. Let the major companies enter the market and improve the lives of the hardworking middle class families that deserve a gentrified neighborhood.

  2. If I was a customer of Ramirez First Street Pharmacy I’d be really upset that they sold my patient files/records to Walgreens. That seems crazy to me. I know people sell email lists, etc. but the linked story says that they sold the “patient files”. Isn’t that kind of info supposed to be protected somehow? Yikes!

  3. Howard Jamison, you say the area “finally isn’t a total embarassment at last…” Are you f’n kidding me!? So now that it’s amenable to hipsters suddenly that means it’s not an embarassment? And when Ramirez senior had his pharmacy there thriving for thirty, forty years it was an embarassment? Do you even know what you’re talking about? Investment is great, but what’s been happening in BH has been by and large a homegrown movement, and it’s been happening a lot longer and has its roots in places you were either too ignorant of or “too embarassed” to know about.

  4. I agree this place is finally not a total embarrassment !

    Hipster or Not , at least a big box store sees some hope here.

    The streets are littered , walls are tagged , its to two steps from being Tijuana.

    Yes , this is an embarrassment , I don’t bring my out of town friends through this area for obvious reason…..

  5. Chinese dissident Ai wei wei did a pretty cool interview with a member of the 50 Cent Party — government paid trolls who talk BS on chat boards, comment boards to confuse people and get people off topic… “Really,” YOU REEK OF TROLL, and of a big box store troll no less. Given what happened in Chinatown, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

    So you don’t bring your friends to Boyle Heights? That’s the best news I’ve heard all day! Thanks!

    To reiterate, the renaissance in Boyle Heights has ZERO — NADA — ZIP — ZILCH to do with investment by national chain stores or big box store investment. It has everything to do with businesses like Sears, like Ramirez Farmacy, like a few banks and endless small local businesses and local residents who have made it what it is today.

    And it’s the energy of home-grown artists and activists who make it unique and an attractive place to visit. “Really,” do Boyle Heights a favor and keep ignoring it.

  6. Boyle Heights has been improving with all the loving, hard working community members who grew up in and around the neighborhood. Big chain stores and hipsters will take away from the improvements being made. They have no history with the Eastside and, for the most part, only want to exploit what they can from it. Being ignored by people like Howard Jamison and Really is a such a good thing! Keep out of the Eastside if you don’t like it.

  7. PURO BOYLE HEIGHTS. F**K WALGREENS. gabachos ignorantes…

    • I wonder why Jesus keeps someone’s comment like yours but deletes mine calling you out? Clearly you are calling white people “ignorant gabachos” which is derogatory, pejorative and racist! Oh yeah, never mind, I’ve answered my own question…

  8. There’s no trolling here. Some people prefer progress, and others don’t.

  9. Regardless of the specifics of the Ramirez family and their pharmacies…chain stores do a lot or research for viability and upward trending locations so I would say Walgreens wanting to come in is a thumbs up for BH. Whether they will benefit the community or what/who/how occurred to create that now perceived favorable chain store climate are entirely different discussions. I personally think it’s a much better problem to have to worry about chains wanting to come in and how best to deal with them than the opposite problem of chains deciding to abandon a neighborhood because they see a downward trend.

  10. Boyle Heights has always — ALWAYS — been a welcoming place.


    But what is ALSO at issue here is the audacity and arrogance of people (like “Howard Jamison/Really!/JoJo”) who delude themselves into believing that suddenly, because they are here, because they have graced a place with their presence, that it is now suddenly a viable place on the upward trajectory of progress.

    And then to prop up big box stores as a sign of progress, well, that might work in some deep suburban or rural towns where there’s nothing going on, but to advocate that for a vibrant place like Boyle Heights, that’s just out of left field quite frankly and very suspicious.

    What’s more, to openly and ignorantly insult as “a total embarrassment” Boyle Heights’ history, as if what came before didn’t have absolutely EVERYTHING to do with what is today, is disrespectful, unhelpful and should be unwelcome in BH and anywhere else.

  11. Raul: you are the weakest link. Goodbye.

  12. Anne Robinson. You’re brilliant! I look forward to running over you next time I’m in Boyle Heights — oh you know what I mean!

  13. Anne: If you are going to make any statement please make one that’s not completely useless to this article. Immaturity such as yours should be censored. Raul is far from being the weakest link.

    Howard, Really!: I’m not even originally from Boyle Heights, but I can definitely see the beauty and culture that thrives within it. If you fail to appreciate culture and local businesses that Boyle Heights is filled with, of course you are going to think this place is an embarrassment. There are several stores and restaurants in Boyle Heights that have been featured in Los Angeles Times and La Opinion with great reviews. If you “obviously” don’t bring your friends here, it’s because you are shallow and don’t know any better.

    However, unlike you two, there are many others that embrace their culture such as activists, artists, and locals that prefer Boyle Heights to progress without the need of chain stores. Just how Raul mentioned, gentrification is NOT the solution for Boyle Heights as it might be for areas that NEED business.

  14. Raul Vasquez and Outsider, right on. As for those who call the arrival of big box stores “progress,” nothing could be further from the truth. Big box stores crowd out local, homegrown businesses — businesses with a vested interest in investing and staying in the community long term — undercutting them cost wise thanks to the deep pockets of their large, national/multinational corporations, till they die out, effectively removing the competition. But unlike local, home grow business with deep roots in the community, the same big box stores are the first ones to close up shop and leave if their board and major shareholders say they have to go. The local store might even be doing well, but what the national and multinational corporation says determines what happens to that store. If they want to close stores and sell of property because they need more cash to invest in another part of the country, or another country, they’ll do it lickety-split and what’s left will be another big empty storefront — only now, there won’t be any more local competing businesses to cater to the community because they’ve all been pushed out. I’ve seen big box stores come into towns only to leave because of corporate-level takeovers, restructuring, what have you (nothing to do with the local store branch), and let me tell you — that big empty storefront with that big empty parking lot is nothing but blight. Now, some businesses with big corporate ties do make some investments in communities; some donate to local causes: local nonprofits providing services for the poor, sports teams, schools, etc. But the truth is, corporate donations account for a very small amount of philanthropic funding; individual donations put together comprise a LOT more. Most, not all, corporations dole out relatively tiny amounts of money to local causes to appear like they care. In reality they don’t give a rat’s *** about the neighborhood; it’s good p.r. and a nice tax deduction for them. You know, this conversation is depressing; I cannot believe in this day and age, there are still people out there who think places like Boyle Heights are simply blighted, brown/yellow/black places just waiting for their big box validation and their salvation in the form of the almighty white hand of hipsters and house flippers. Ignorant folks like that know nothing of the rich, multi-ethnic history of places like BH, and of course, they could care less; all they see is land they covet. And to justify their takeover of the place, their reimagining of the place, they tell themselves the place is nothing but blight and human misery so they can feel superior when they colonize the neighborhood w/their big box stores, their grey houses with crazy bright doors and horizontal fences. Because you know, if they were to acknowledge the place is already rich with history, with people living their today who love this place and call home, how could those ignorant folks then justify their takeover, aka gentrification? I’ve got no beef with people who want to move into the neighborhood, but it’s not acceptable for people to come in with the attitude that everything before them is just trash and now they’re coming to save the day. Mighty Mouse you are not.

  15. That was a good rant Syd, a bit long, but still very good. Your sentiment is exactly right. The posters here that were saying this neighborhood was an embarrassment are the same ones that come in and buy those flipped houses, know nothing about the community, and think THEY are the ones making the place better.

    There are locals here that have been working for years to improve this neighborhood and it’s working. We don’t need people coming in thinking they’re “saving” this place. They have no clue.

  16. the ramirez store sucks anyways me and my parents stop getting medicine from that place because it was overpriced stuff that you can get cheaper in another pharmacy ex.(Lorena pharmacy, Sav-0ns, and Walgreens. Many people think the ramirez pharmacy its a mom and pop store, but in reality the one that owns it is just looking out for himself and doesnt care about the customers.

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