Society: Another Scandal in Gladwyne

Our wealthiest village is again the setting for an odd tale, this time of diverted prescription drugs, rumors, and $22 crab pizzas

Phones started jingling early in Gladwyne on December 28th, the Tuesday after Christmas: “Did you hear what happened at the pharmacy?” asked Maurice Tannenbaum at OMG Salon, which, with its open-door policy, antiques, and fun atmosphere in an 1806 building, is the nexus of highlights and gossip in the town. In a place where news travels more quickly than an out-of-its-cage hamster, residents were shocked to hear that their genial, hip-looking 58-year-old village pharmacist, Howard Dall, of the Gladwyne Pharmacy, had been charged with — and would plead guilty to, two weeks later — filling prescriptions with tens of thousands of sample pills illegally procured from rogue drug reps and doctors.

Across the street at Delaware Market, the tiny gourmet shop that sells foodstuffs like $22 crab pizzas and fragrant sheep’s-milk cheese, owner Kim Katz-­Alvarez was in shock. She and her husband, who are also the market’s chefs, had bought the place from Dall eight months earlier; Dall had sold it to them on generous terms, to ensure that the market’s quirky character wouldn’t be changed, that the long-­standing traditions of house charges and personal deliveries were carried on. A supporter of his synagogue, a father of three, the New York-bred Dall had been a more-than-fair boss. “We knew nothing that was going on,” Katz-Alvarez says.

Had anyone known about her former boss’s sideline in Zyrtec, Avandia and Paxil, Katz-Alvarez thought, she would have heard about it. She is on friendly terms with all her customers — Michael and Tommy, her deliverymen, head up quarter-mile driveways to $2 million houses with pâté and seared salmon on a daily basis. “It’s Peyton Place,” she says of Gladwyne. “A really weird town: a mix of old and new, Jewish and gentile, and then something happens, and it’s all the rage.” She also worried for her friend Perry Koffer, who had just bought the pharmacy from Dall in November, and who is not implicated in the pill-switching, because she knows how chatty the village is.

Indeed, the story took on a whimsical twist: Tannenbaum and his partner, John Giangiacomo, heard that the hapless Dall, who has a leonine head and a friendly, growly voice, had won the lottery (!) in the early 1990s and bought the pharmacy and gourmet market with the proceeds. The Powerball plotline turned out to be patently false — “I wish I had won the lottery,” said Dall glumly when he heard it — but it only fueled speculation. From Philadelphia Country Club to the Montessori drop-off drive, there was initially fear about whether medications had been out of date or otherwise unsafe. (Prosecutors were reassuring; no one has been harmed by the sample pills.)

Appealingly grouchy lifelong resident Connie Barker, however, wasn’t surprised. “There’s something about the water in Gladwyne,” opines Barker, in his 18th-century house next to OMG, just back from walking his beagle Bailey. (He often gleans his best dish on dog trots, and in the Super Fresh, which he owns.) “My alarm systems went off when I met Dall. Gladwyne has the unfortunate habit that people will come to town, and everyone will just embrace them.”