For many years the Norcross Drug Store occupied a spot in the first block of South Peachtree in downtown Norcross, dispensing medications to the community, along with soda drinks, ice cream treats and the like to folks who came to town to shop. It was established in 1900 by Dr. William Keady, and then was carried on by Dr. Arch Lietch up until the late 1940s. This is the story of the first 50 years of the drug store, and of the two pharmacists who ran the shop during that period.
William McHenry Keady was the grandson of Irish immigrants; his family name was pronounced “Kay- dee” with emphasis on the first syllable. He was born in Missouri in 1875 but while young moved to Alabama and then on to Wadley in South Georgia by 1900, where he worked as a druggist. He decided to open his own drug store, and was thinking of doing so in Duluth. But the story is told that he was so impressed by the level of activity and friendly people he saw in Norcross, a stop along the way on the train from Atlanta, he decided to set up business in our “Place to Imagine”.
He and his wife Mary moved into the Brunswick Hotel (which was across the street from today’s Thrasher Park) and he opened the shop at the corner of Jones Street and South Peachtree (where the Bank of Norcross building is located today) in December 1900, as he advertised in local publications:
The photo below shows the exterior of the shop in its early days.
The Keadys stayed in Norcross for seven years, and at that point sold the drug store operations to Dr. Lietch and moved to Commerce, GA. They moved back to Norcross several years later, and in 1923 they purchased a six room home off of Thrasher Street, between Holcomb Bridge Road and Autry Street. The home, which they called Breezecot, is shown in the photo below. This house was later demolished to make way for further development.
During his later years Dr. Keady ran a small “five and ten cent store” in downtown Norcross, selling mainly candy and small items. John Adams remembered him from these days, commenting that he was “a striking individual with a great sense of humor.”
Dr. Keady is shown below, with his wife Mary, her sister Alice Rumph and his mother Martha:
Mary Keady passed away in 1950, and her husband in 1968; both are buried in the Norcross City Cemetery.
Arch Lietch’s parents, William Riley Lietch and his wife Saluda Lietch, lived with their family on a large farm on the outskirts of Norcross (at the intersection of today’s Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Interstate 85) at the beginning of the 20 th century. Their son Archie Howard Lietch, born in 1886, taught at the Glover School, an elementary school serving the children of farm families in that area, while a young man. Then, after graduating from Southern College of Pharmacy, he took over the Norcross drug store from Dr. Keady. Arch Lietch’s pharmacy school diploma is shown below.
The drug store moved from the corner of South Peachtree and Jones to a location down the block several doors at some point in the early 1900s, and stayed there up until the 1960s. The photo below of the interior of the store shows Dr. Lietch on the right, along with his employee Carl Gresham, who worked there for a short period of time.
Richard Sudderth worked in the drug store during his high school days in the early 1940s, and vividly remembered one of his more challenging days – he prepared a milkshake for a patron one afternoon, and from her reaction to her first taste he realized that he had used buttermilk as the basis for the shake! Arch and Jessie Twitty, the daughter of local Baptist preacher T. T. Twitty, married around 1912. They purchased a home at the corner of Thrasher and Autry Streets in Norcross in 1923, shown below.
There they raised three children – sons Howard and Tom and daughter Sara. Tom and Howard both served in the US military in World War II. In addition to her activities at home Jessie helped with the drug store, making chicken salad and pimento cheese sandwiches each day that were a popular treat at lunchtime.
The Lietchs were active in church and community life over the years. He served on the Baptist Church Board of Deacons and as a city councilman - when he left the latter in 1919 his resignation was unanimously accepted by his fellow council members “with thanks for his valuable service and assistance as a fellow councilman, and appreciation for the pleasant relations while a member of the council.” Jessie Lietch was active in the Norcross Woman’s Club, including a role in coordinating programs of music and readings for their meetings.
Dr. Lietch sold the drug business to pharmacist Dr. Bugs Mims not long before his death in 1948, and he and Jessie moved back to the farm outside town. Arch suffered from diabetes and was active through his life in evaluating the latest treatments for the disease, and in growing healthy food on the family farm; he passed away at the age of 62. John Adams remembered him as “one of the calmest, most event tempered persons I have ever known.”
Jessie Lietch lived on the farm for many years afterwards, and her granddaughter Sylvia recalled fond memories of time spent with her grandmother there as she grew up – riding the mules Red and Kate, enjoying seasonal crops such as corn, Wins All tomatoes and scuppernongs, feeding the pigs and turkeys that were raised there, spending the night there with her high school girlfriends after Friday night football games.