Jack Fleeman, 86, owner of landmark drugstore

At Fleeman’s Pharmacy, the customer was always right. Customer service was top notch.

Jack Fleeman, owner of the landmark drugstore at 772 N. Highland Ave., ensured it.

Atlantans started their days there with a cup of joe. They saddled up to the marble counter top and old-school soda fountain — circa 1914 — for malts and shakes. Herman Talmadge and Lester Maddox were regulars.

This was more museum than drugstore. Memorabilia adorned almost every inch of the joint. Photos of drugstore employees and famous customers graced the walls. Medicine bottles and prescription books that dated to the late 1800s were on display. Coke trays, bottles and related beverage items were omnipresent.

Overseeing it all was Mr. Fleeman, nicknamed “Mr. Coke” for his love of the drink.

Often customers with ailments would come see him before they sought a doctor. He’d tell them to buy this or that. Sometimes he’d mix up an ointment on the spot, said his daughter, Jackie Fleeman of Marietta.

“It was a really old-school drugstore,” she said, “and a wonderful way to grow up. He was not just the pharmacist; he did more than that. The customer always came first. Daddy felt like he did it the right way.”

George Jackson Fleeman, 86, of Atlanta died Saturday of cancer at his home. The funeral is 12:30 p.m. Tuesday in the chapel of A.S. Turner & Sons, which is in charge of arrangements.

Mr. Fleeman was born in Americus and raised in Wilcox and Telfair counties. His mother ran a boarding house on Spring Street and later on Ponce de Leon Avenue. As a teen, he worked as a soda jerk and deliverer for Atlanta pharmacies.

He graduated from Pineview High School and the Southern College of Pharmacy, now Mercer University.

He served in the U.S. Navy and, shortly after World War II, started work in a pharmacy called Cox & Baucom. He became its sole proprietor in the 1960s.

In March 1995, the historic drugstore — which had gone through several name changes before Fleeman’s — filled its last prescription.

Today, the location is called Belly General Store, whose owners lease the landmark Virginia-Highland building from James C. Simmons Jr. The decades-long friend of Mr. Fleeman’s thought the druggist was ahead of his time.

“In those days, he was one of the first persons in the [independent] drugstore business to sell things above and beyond what a traditional drugstore did,” Mr. Simmons said. “Fleeman’s wasn’t a gathering spot.

“It was a destination.”

In later years, Mr. Fleeman took up photography as a second career. He was a Mason with Gate City Lodge No. 2, past president of the Druid Hills Civitan Club and a member of the Scottish Rite Yaarab Temple.

Mr. Fleeman wore his veteran's cap most everywhere he went. One day at S&S Cafeteria, a little girl came up to him and thanked him for his service.

“Tears came to his eyes,” his daughter said.

Additional survivors include another daughter, Phoebe Ward of Alpharetta; three grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.