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Wagner's Pharmacy passes down Derby history from generation to generation

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Posted at 9:00 AM, May 07, 2022

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (LEX18) — The race is historic, but there's a business across the street that's marking a milestone of its own this year.

At the corner of Fourth and Central, history mirrors itself at Wagner's Pharmacy.

"That was the original address back in '22; you didn't have all the numbers before it," said co-owner Lee Wagner. "It was just the corner of Fourth and Central."

Wall to wall, beam to beam in Derby decor, the business is like Louisville's version of a clubhouse.

The classic look feels like every aspect has been passed down from generation to generation. The decor spans for more than a hundred years, bringing in first-time customers and many who have visited for decades. All of that combined makes it a small community within a greater one.

It's an almost equally famed establishment nestled across the street from Churchill Downs.

"My father, I remember, growing up, he used to always love spreading the Derby fever," said Lee, who is now tasked with continuing that Derby fever spread as a third-generation Wagner. "I still get called Little Lee by some of the old-timers from the race track that come here. Because, of course, I was a kid. My father had me around here when I was two, three years old."

A bare, white wall doesn't exist. Nearly every inch is occupied by memorabilia pertaining to Churchill Downs and the Derby, including their gift shop. Who knows it better, than the jockey that keeps this place running?

"Oh, it's a wild experience!" Wagner says.

"When I first started here, I said I'm not going to be here this long. I don't want to do this," said Pam Pryor, a line cook at Wagner's Pharmacy.

22 years later, she's still here. Pryor knows the ins and outs of a place where nobody is a stranger. And that makes her like family.

Looking back at the 147 Derbys already in the books, the mission of spreading the fever is like their Triple Crown.

"We just try to keep that going and spread it to everybody that comes in and out the door."

Derby fever carries on for the 148th year at historic Churchill Downs. Wagner's carries on their own tradition, at their own iconic home.

"It's nice to say that 100 years later, we're still on the corner of Fourth and Central."