Dec. 1, 2008
The passing of the Pasek era
By Peter Passi
After more than a half-century behind a pharmacy
counter in Duluth, Don Pasek finally has called it quits. The 81-year-old
founder of Pasek Pharmacy worked his final shift last week.
The pharmacy world has changed greatly since Pasek
entered the business in 1953. He recalls that at the time Duluth
was home to 33 independent pharmacies. Now, Pasek puts that number
at just four.
Although Pasek has retired, Pasek Pharmacy will
continue to operate under the ownership of Charley Korsch, who bought
the business in 1998. Despite the change of ownership, Pasek has
continued to work as a pharmacist at the drugstore for the past
The pharmacy has retained the Pasek name, but
as of today, it has moved from 116 W. First St. to 113 N. Second
Ave. W., less than a block away from its original location.
Korsch says there's still great value in the Pasek
"To realize that Pasek is the last surviving
corner drugstore in downtown Duluth really is amazing," he
said, adding that the pharmacy's longevity is a testament to Don's
"In order to survive in this business, you
have to find a niche and do what you do better than anyone else,"
Pasek logged some mean hours to build his business.
"It wasn't unusual to work from 9 a.m. to
midnight, 15 to 17 hours per day," he said.
Don's wife, Judy Pasek, said she never knew her
husband to grouse about work, however. She described his decision
to retire as tough.
"Don's been working at the pharmacy for forever
and a day. It's who he is," she said. "That's why it's
so hard to leave. It breaks my heart."
Judy Pasek worked alongside her husband as a pharmacy
technician until last week. The two met on the job.
Don Pasek, a 1945 graduate of Denfeld High School,
served a few years as an Army infantryman and then attended Creighton
University in Omaha, Neb., where he earned a pharmacy degree with
the aid of the GI Bill.
He returned to Duluth and landed his first job
as a pharmacist at Paul's Reliable Drug in 1953. Judy, who is several
years his junior, initially came to work at the business as a bookkeeper.
In 1964, Pasek purchased the drugstore from Paul Winer and renamed
it Pasek Pharmacy.
Pasek's name is nearly as synonymous with music
as it is with service.
A great fan of polka music, particularly the snappy
Slovenian variety, Pasek has sponsored local polka broadcasts for
years. He also sold polka music out of his drugstore.
"To my knowledge, he operated the only retail
polka outlet between the Iron Range and the Twin Cities," said
Pat Cadigan, a KDAL radio personality and well-known polka show
host. He noted that Pasek was a great polka promoter, supplying
recordings to local radio stations, as well.
"Some of the band leaders would go to Don
for advice about what types of music would sell. That's how respected
he was," Cadigan said.
Pasek is a musician, as well. A member of the
Pasek Bros. Band, he began playing accordion professionally at age
"Our father had to accompany us to nightclubs,
because we were too young to be in there alone," Pasek recalled.
In 1998, Pasek earned a Lifetime Achievement Award
from the Iron World Polka Hall of Fame.
Now that he's retired, Pasek expects he'll dedicate
more time to enjoy his extensive collection of polka music.