On a quiet Soho side street, this mom-and-pop pharmacy has served as a local hangout and boutique for French skincare since 1994 – but almost didn’t survive the pandemic.
Though over the years they’ve weathered a fire, the birth of online shopping, and the neighborhood’s transformation from an industrial wasteland to an expensive playground for the rich, COVID nearly took the Thompson Chemists’ lives — right down to the owners have started posting on their TikTok accountwhich now has an enthusiastic following.
“We’ve seen over 200% growth in business thanks to social media,” estimates Jolie “Mama J” Alony, who speaks five languages, hails from both the South of France and the Upper East Side, and runs the bright green Thompson Street outpost with her 32nd birthday -year-old husband, the “medicine man” Gary.
“We only held out for the bare minimum — there are no customers, nothing,” Jolie said of the darkest days of the pandemic as she and Gary began to be more active with the extra time available maintenance of their website — and posts on Facebook, Instagram and, with the encouragement of her youngest daughter, on TikTok.
“All of a sudden, I don’t know how or why, we went viral. And then we just kept going viral, and people kept coming in and saying, ‘I saw you on Tiktok,’ and they wanted to meet me.”
Jolie was a natural for the platform, where her entertaining extroversion and generous antics please Give away test samples at random to “winners” while banging on a cymbal cowbell log instrument that a patron had once given her – which immediately garnered tens of thousands of views and spread awareness of Thompson Chemists’ indie existence, not to mention from their inventory of hard-to-find pieces, cult-favorite imports from France.
“They’re of a higher quality,” 23-year-old Nick O’Brien told the Post while inspecting a wall of the store’s French beauty items, including Nuxe’s drying oil, Biafine emulsion and homeoplasmin ointment – the latter believed to be rich in petroleum jelly ( and a good lip mask for the night).
“It’s hard to find. “There aren’t many US stores that offer Parisian meat delights like this,” said Jessica Gatolala, 36.
“The new generation values quality, the younger people are all about skin,” said Irit Ogara, a 30-year-old employee who met her husband, an area manager, through the store when he came in to find out about the They handed out flyers to complain.
Originally a beautician, Ogara says she is always impressed by the knowledge that today’s young people have about skin care and the quality of their skin.
Jolie says that since her newfound virality, certain brands in particular have been selling faster than she can replenish stock.
“The A313 can’t stay on the shelf,” she remarked of a particularly popular and high-performing retinol pomade, prized by product pros for being – like most of Jolie’s French offerings – made from much simpler, natural ingredients than many of theirs American equivalents.
“French skincare is based on tradition and innovation with formulas that have proven to be efficient without forgetting the pleasure of the senses with texture and fragrance,” Marie-Laure Fournier, president of Fournier PR + Consulting, told The Post. “Recently, brands are all going natural or organic and exploring ways to improve sustainability, upcycling, sourcing fair trade ingredients and greener packaging that aligns with Gen Z values.”
While social media has helped raise awareness of such products, one particular hit Netflix show has actually led to even better marketing for Thompson’s European products.
“‘Emily in Paris’ had a huge impact,” Alexandrine Aubry, Scents of Europe’s beauty distributor and 20-year industry veteran, told The Post, saying the show was something of a massive publicity campaign for French products and theirs relaxed, lifestyle-focused pleasure—Thompson Chemists offers both.
“It’s a social club [patrons] Come to socialize,” Aubry said of the store’s café vibe, while Jolie made her a free espresso. And as can be seen on their social media channels, the pharmacy even hosts small concerts.
Numerous collaborations have sprung from musicians — including the late Beastie Boy Adam Yauch and The Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh — meeting at the store, which is just part of the star-studded stories in Jolie’s and Gary’s arsenal.
“Brad Pitt would always come when he was with Gwyneth,” Jolie recalls, and Gary added, “He would wring a cigarette for my mom.”
Patti Smith is also “a really good customer,” and once Sarah Jessica Parker stopped by and spoke at length with Gary, who didn’t realize who she was until her doctor presented her script.
As well as writing screenplays, promoting French brands and serving as a celebrity hangout, Thompson Chemists sells its own lines of CBD products, candles, vegan nail polish and shelves of hair care products by Hollywood hairstylist Philip B. Both a brand and a man , which Jolie constantly FaceTimes with.
“He’s my best friend,” she told FaceTiming when her attorney walked in and called her and Gary “amazing people, a credit to this neighborhood.”