For decades, Eddie Ramirez built a name for himself and his pharmacies in East Los Angeles, passing his legacy on to his two sons,Roberto and Michael, who both currently work as pharmacists. But the former candidate for political office and respected member of the community who passed away in 2007, probably never imagined his photo would be embraced by a national drug store chain in Boyle Heights.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Walgreens Adopta el Legado de la ‘Farmacia Ramírez’ en Boyle Heights 
Walgreens, located at the corner of Breed Street and Cesar Chavez, opened earlier this year. Today, a banner hanging over the store’s entrance proclaims: “Walgreens Welcomes Ramirez First Pharmacy [Clients], Bienvenidos Clientes de la Farmacia Ramirez.”
Just a block away, at 2403 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue, a banner hanging over the entrance of Farmacia Ramirez makes its own proclamation: “Farmacia Ramirez Aquí Estamos y No Nos Vamos!” (Ramirez Pharmacy: Here We Are and We Aren’t Going Away). In smaller letters, the sign points out that the pharmacy is the original Ramirez Pharmacy; open since 1953.
Eddie Ramirez opened the pharmacy, which has become a landmark of sorts at Cesar Chavez and Soto over 30 years ago, according to his son, Dr. Michael Ramirez, PharmD, the pharmacy’s current owner.
Michael is not happy that his father’s image is on display at Walgreens, which he says has tried to buy him out.
“I’m disappointed in Walgreens, such a large, national corporation with more than 8,000 stores nationwide. For them to do something like this… it’s underhanded and disrespectful to me and the community,” he told EGP.
The controversial banner has a black and white photo of Eddie Ramirez taken from a campaign poster from his unsuccessful bid for governor of California decades ago. A label on the sign says, “Walgreens Welcome Ramirez First Street Customers.”
“I think they’re exploiting us, it’s underhanded unprofessional and unethical,” said Michael, who thinks the photo of his father could confuse some of his customers.
But this is not a simple case of one company misappropriating the name or image associated with another company.
According to Walgreens spokesman Robert Elfinger, the chain retailer received permission to use the photo from Eddie Ramirez’s family.
“Mr. Eddie Ramirez’s wife and his son Roberto gave Walgreens permission to hang the sign. The sign hung for years in Ramirez First Pharmacy and we are proud to carry on the late Eddie Ramirez’s tradition of serving the Boyle Heights community,” Elfinger told EGP in an email.
Eddie’s son Roberto closed down his branch of Ramirez Pharmacy on East 1st Street in unincorporated East Los Angeles earlier this year, and sold his patient files to Walgreens. Today, Roberto works as a pharmacist at the same Walgreens his brother says is being disrespectful to the Ramirez family history in the eastside.
Last year, Roberto became a vocal opponent of Metro’s decision to eliminate bus routes along East First Street due to the opening of the Metro Eastside Gold Line on Third Street. He says the decision made it hard for his customers to get to his store to fill their prescriptions, hurting his business.
Roberto — who has worked as a Walgreens pharmacist since September— told EGP he does not think the sign with his father’s image has confused customers, nor does he have a problem with it being on display. He declined to answer any other questions.
According to Walgreen’s Elfinger, they have not received any complaints from their customers. “We have had a few customers ask about the sign because of Eddie’s recognition in the community, but there haven’t been customer complaints,” he said.
Michael says he rebuked Walgreens’ offer to buy his customer accounts, and now the company is trading on his father’s name to try to increase their customer base. He says the sign in front of Walgreens welcoming “Farmacia Ramirez” customers bothers him.
“Walgreens is a competitor… the information is misleading on the banner,” he said. “We’re not closing,” but some customers might think we are because of Walgreen’s sign, he added.
Michael said his attorney recently sent a letter to Walgreens asking that their sign be changed to specify the 1st Street location, and not the “first’ Ramirez Pharmacy, which he owns. He wants the sign to only be in English.
Elfinger, however, says he doesn’t know anything about such a letter, and added that the company does not disclose information regarding the purchasing of customer files.
While the underlying issue could be a question of who should maintain control of their father’s image and legacy, both brothers refrained from making personal attacks about each other to EGP.
In fact, Michael said there was nothing wrong with Walgreens buying his brother’s patient files or offering him a job, “But they shouldn’t exploit the Ramirez name… I don’t think my father’s image should be there being exploited. That’s our family name…” he said. “…It might be illegal, [I’m having] an attorney look into it.”
Roberto, however, notes that it was his mother, Dolores Ramirez, who gave Walgreens permission to use her husband’s name and image.
“I believe she has that right, it’s her husband,” he said. “In life my father taught me to honor thy mother and father—and that’s my credo.”
Farmacia Ramirez at Cesar Chavez and Soto was their father’s first and last pharmacy, Michael underscored.
He wants Walgreens to change the banner. “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.”
The two Ramirez pharmacies were located six miles apart, the 1st Street location opened in 1996.
Dolores Ramirez could not be reached for comment.