Jekyll Island’s Medicine Man

Jekyll Island’s Medicine Man

John Waters ran a favorite hangout of locals and visitors.


For decades at the end of the last century and into this one, one of Jekyll Island’s most beloved hangouts was its pharmacy. From 1974 to 2009, John Waters and his wife, Mary, owned and operated Jekyll Pharmacy. Locals and visitors could pick up prescriptions, of course, but it was the lunch counter and souvenir shop that made the store an island destination.  

Waters was a pharmacist in Waycross when he heard of a struggling pharmacy on Jekyll Island. He and a partner bought it, and Waters and his wife eventually became sole owners. “I had never worked in a pharmacy that was beach-oriented,” Waters says. “We got a quick intro into needing to have souvenirs.” In the first few years, the pharmacy also offered a counter serving breakfast and lunch. Locals would stop in for a cup of coffee and, thanks to the free refills, stay all day.

After five years, the counter proved unprofitable, so Mary instead expanded the gift shop. “My wife was very good at finding things everybody else didn’t have,” Waters says. “We had T-shirts, sweatshirts, and other souvenirs that were always a cut above what everyone else offered.” While Mary managed the retail business, Waters ran the pharmacy and business operations. The couple managed most of the year with six employees, sometimes adding a college student in summers. During peak summer hours, they were open 18 hours a day.

By 2009, the building housing Jekyll Pharmacy was scheduled for redevelopment, so Waters and his wife said goodbye to their 35-year venture. “I miss the people,” says Waters, who still lives with Mary on the island—they’ll celebrate their 60th anniversary this year—and still keeps in touch with his clients.

In 2023, Mercer Medical, in partnership with the Jekyll Island Authority, opened the island’s first urgent care clinic. It’s in the Beach Village.

This article first appeared in Volume 7 Number 1 of 31•81, the Magazine of Jekyll Island.

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