May 29, 2020 By Allie Griffin
A family-run drug and hardware store continues to supply the Flushing community during the coronavirus pandemic that has devastated Queens.
Raindew Family Centers and Pharmacy — which has served Flushing for more than five decades — has not closed for a single day since the pandemic began.
The local business that was founded in 1968 survived a fire in the ’80s and is now taking on a global pandemic.
A fire burnt the store to the ground in 1989. The Montalbano family rebuilt the store from the ground up at its original location at 35-15 Francis Lewis Blvd, where it has stood ever since.
Co-owner and son of Raindew’s founder Richard Montalbano said if they could survive a fire, they will survive a global pandemic and support the community in the process.
“We have been through fires, we have been through floods and now we have survived a worldwide pandemic and we have not closed for a single day,” Richard said.
“We have stayed open and all hands on deck, we found ways to get through it.”
The store sells coveted products like hand sanitizer, disinfectant sprays, gloves and face masks — and has even from the start of the pandemic.
“When no other stores had masks or hand sanitizer or wipes, we did,” Montalbano said.
Montalbano and his brother and fellow co-owner James Montalbano leaped through hoops to get the in-demand products on their shelves — often buying them from suppliers at exorbitant prices, he added.
“We are selling tons of hand sanitizers, rubber gloves, masks — things that [customers] could not get anywhere else,” James Montalbano said. “We worked our asses off to get it for them.”
The brothers searched for new distributors who had the product in stock near and far.
“We sent trucks everywhere to get items at sometimes not the right price because that’s what happens in a shortage,” Richard Montalbano said. “We did our best to work on tighter margins when we had to keep pricing at a fair level so we could get people what they needed.”
Raindew bought packs of Lysol cans from a wholesale distributor, a company that sold the packs for more than double the price and is now charged with price gouging.
However, instead of marking the prices up like the distributor, Raindew charged their own customers reasonable amounts — making just 50 cents profit in some cases, Richard Montalbano said.
“There were times we were selling Lysol and losing money to have it in our store,” he added.
In fact an inspector from the Office of Consumer Affairs passed Raindew on April 11 with flying colors and found no instances of price gouging.
Richard said Raindew customers are grateful that the store has remained open throughout the pandemic and have thanked him for the shelves stocked with sanitizer, masks and disinfectant spray.
“We’ve survived a lot since 1968, but this has been extremely difficult on my employees and they should be thanked,” he said.
“Most people are very appreciative of the fact that my employees have put their own health at risk to stay open and keep their jobs.”
James Montalbano said all their hard work and sacrifice is to benefit the community.
“We’ve been working like crazy trying to support the neighborhood and help them get through all this,” he said. “All my employees have families at home. They’re working all day, they’re going home to their family with a risk [of contracting the virus] also.”
“Everyone’s risking to help the communities. We’re in it to help.”