If you’re seeking a trip to the ‘50s, look no further than Nau’s Enfield Drug.
The pharmaceutical room in a back corner earns the store its name, but that’s hardly all Nau’s has to offer. A convenience store greets shoppers in the front, and a small counter cafe in the back brings in customers looking for a bite.
Nau’s was the second of two locations opened in 1951 by brothers Hilton and Ladner Nau. In 1963, a regular named Lambert Labay began working there. In 1971 Labay took over, and today his daughter Laura owns
“It’s nostalgic, the old-fashioned family business,” Labay said. “You know the owner of the pharmacy, you know the pharmacist, everything is open. It’s kind of like stepping back in time.”
Apart from a few changes like tacos on the menu and modern brands on the store shelves, Nau’s has maintained its ‘50s image. The aesthetic detail hasn’t changed since it opened.
Labay recounted a photo of her parents sitting at the far end of the dining counter, same stools and all. The Naus and Labays were pretty close: They even got together for Thanksgivings.
“Hilton didn’t have any children, so they kind of took my dad under their wing,” Labay said.
Even from the days Labay’s father visited, the kitchen has stayed true to its roots. Nau’s diner caters to a crowd in search of old fashioned burgers and shakes without being too pricey. Meals range between five and ten dollars.
A past visitor, Andrew Robb, saw the ‘help wanted’ sign up front and now works in the convenience store and occasionally the diner. He joined last December after moving to Austin from Oklahoma City. Though he never worked a service job before Nau’s, Robb said he enjoys getting to know all the restaurant’s devoted regulars.
“That’s what I look forward to in the day, just seeing people I enjoy talking to,” Robb said.
Nau’s gained traction in the ‘50s as a local pharmacy and still sells medication. Other than the required license to practice, Nau’s old style hasn’t changed much. The pharmacists still sit down and speak with their loyal group of customers and even meet with doctors to consult prescriptions.
Unlike the customers of big name vendors such as CVS, patients here can find a bit more service. One of the pharmacists, Sara Aldaz, spent some time at Walgreens before coming to Nau’s. Aldaz said she learned a lot more working at Nau’s, completing orders without a technician and interacting with customers.
“You become close with people,” Aldaz said. “You go out of the way a little bit more for them, makes it feel more rewarding.”
Aldaz said some customers have been returning for decades, showing up with their grandkids to grab candy along with the prescription then a burger before they head out. One long-time regular brings his dog
“She’s my favorite,” Aldaz said. “He always brings me treats to give her, she does all these tricks and stuff. It’s like the highlight of my Saturday.”
Despite positive customer relations, Labay said rising expenses and the change in finance distribution, especially between pharmacies and insurance companies, has made it difficult for Nau’s to operate.
“People like us, we’re kind of on the verge,” Labay said. “We’re trying to make it, but we don’t want to be (driven) out of the system.”