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durans central pharmacy
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durans central pharmacy
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by Michaela Hart

Duran’s Central Pharmacy is a top stop along Route 66

There are lists upon lists of quaint drug store/soda fountains across the U.S., but Duran’s Central Pharmacy puts a new twist on the concept. While it, of course, has a pharmacy, it also has a fun and funky gift shop and restaurant that are wholly New Mexican in concept.

Founded in a nearby location in 1942 by pharmacist Pete Duran, the business is now in a much larger building at 1815 Central Avenue NW. Look for the huge art deco clock— you can’t miss it.

Entering the packed-to-the-gills gift shop through the double doors, you’ll find an amazing inventory of New Mexican-made products as well as specialty souvenirs and gifts. There are books by local authors, jewelry, accessories, fresh flowers, greeting cards, bath and body products, t-shirts and myriad other things (many by local artisans) you can’t live without. Let’s not forget the Duran’s Chile gifts sets!

To one side is the full-service pharmacy, the granddaddy of the business, complete with attentive professionals who provide personal service to every customer. Aside from prescription drugs, homeopathic and natural remedies, the usual over-the-counter preparations are available.

As you shop or pick up your prescription, tantalizing aromas waft from the adjoining soda-fountain-turned-restaurant. Seven days a week the restaurant serves up a classic New Mexican menu of burritos, enchiladas, tacos, tamales, burgers and more starting at 9 a.m. Receiving rave reviews from hungry diners, no meal is complete without a piping hot homemade tortilla topped with melting butter.

Why a full-scale neighborhood restaurant in a pharmacy? Both the gift shop and kitchen evolved from the typical drug store/ soda fountain concept of Pete Duran’s day. As the neighborhood grew, Duran’s Pharmacy expanded, meeting the needs of their customers, not to mention an influx of tourists from all over the world. Now, people who have heard of Duran’s, call from the road and stop to pick up an order of delicious New Mexican food on the fly.

When Pete Duran decided to retire and sell his business in 1965, his staff pharmacist, Robert Ghattas, purchased it and his family still owns the place and work there today. Dedicated to its history, Duran’s continues to employ local people, providing opportunities for many who live nearby. It’s an iconic stop along Route 66 to shop and enjoy some of the best food in the state of New Mexico.