ROCK SPRINGS — This retail legend has been active in Downtown Rock Springs since 1958.
Bi-Rite/Sweet Sage/Remedies Grill is a mix of high-end treasures, Wyoming merchandise and home health care.
After shopping for gifts and looking for home décor, residents and travelers can step back in time at 50s-themed café Remedies Grill – locals agree that it is the sure cure for hunger.
Owners Mark and John Piaia grew up in Bi-Rite since their parents owned it.
Their father Duce Piaia served our country before becoming a businessman.
After an injury in France, he received a purple heart for his bravery during World War II.
Duce’s daughter Michele was a pharmacist at Bi-Rite.
According to Michele, President Eisenhower granted him permission to see his family in Italy before returning to Wyoming.
While Duce was in Italy, he thought about the future.
“Duce’s Uncle Carlos Piaia suggested he become a pharmacist,” Michele explained. “He thought it was a good profession.”
After attending pharmacy school at University of Wyoming, he returned to Rock Springs and opened his own pharmacy.
In the fifties and sixties, it was common to see a pharmacy/fountain combo in communities.
Duce said, “All pharmacies had fountains back then. It made sense to have one.”
Duce and his close friend Del Looney were in business together with Bi-Rite at 418 Broadway Street (across from their current location) and Del’s on Pilot Butte Avenue.
The store gave new meaning to “variety.” Shoppers quenched their thirst with a cherry coke while they waited for prescriptions. They also found items like plants, appliances, toys, cosmetics, magazines and cigarettes. There was a surprise on every shelf.
“When I was little, the store seemed so big!” Mark recalled. “It seems small when I look at it now.”
“Our father was a diligent worker,” Michele shared. “Our mom prepared dinner and I took it to him to the pharmacy. His hard work allowed us to have comfortable lives.”
Duce gave boxes of Russell Stover chocolates to his supporters at Christmas time, thanking them for their patronage.
“John and I wrapped them,” she said. “We wrapped presents very well because of our early training!”
The siblings and their parents delivered medications to the local nursing home and to those who were homebound.
Their mother Mary Ann was involved in the business as a bookkeeper. By 1984, she and John bought the Hallmark store in the White Mountain Mall.
Eventually, the brothers moved the Hallmark store into Sweet Sage by 2015.
“Our mother liked the finer things,” Mark said. “She loved quality and appreciated high-end items.”
By the early 1990’s, Bi-Rite relocated across the street. The pharmacy closed in 2006.
According to Mark, they “did not know what to expect” when they opened Remedies Grill.
“I didn’t want to get into the food business,” Mark admitted. “John convinced me to do it.
“I’m glad we did it – I think it’s the best part of the business.”
Mark added, “You can see future in it, versus retail. Retail can be really tough but if you put out good food and have great service, it works.”
He said, “It’s exciting to see Remedies and the Wyoming apparel grow.”
Grill associate Wendy Suhr said she enjoys seeing the community interact in the café.
“It’s like watching an unplanned reunion,” Suhr said. “People get excited to see their acquaintances and invite them to sit with them. They have a good time here.”
Grill associate Kevalin Skorcz agreed.
“I look forward to clocking in because of the customers and my co-workers,” Skorcz shared. “They bring joy to my day.”
Suhr mentioned, “The location for this business is perfect.”
“If Bi-Rite was anywhere else it wouldn’t be the same,” Suhr said.
Cashier Jaydin Ross said there are hardly any strangers at Bi-Rite because “everyone knows your name.”
“They treat you like family here,” she said.