It's been an institution in Slatington for a half-century.

From the time Joe Bechtel opened Bechtel's Pharmacy in June of 1961, the business has remained a pillar in the community.

Located at 302 Main Street, the business celebrated its 50th anniversary on Monday with cake, hot dogs, doughnuts, popcorn and T-shirts to customers in the parking lot.

Bechtel, a registered pharmacist who is partners in the business with his sons, Edward and Jack, said the company is a family-oriented pharmacy that specializes in prescriptions and prescription services.

For every prescription the pharmacy dispenses in the month of June, Bechtel said it has agreed to make .50 cent donation to one of seven local charities: Slatington Public Library, Northern Lehigh Food Bank, Walnutport Canal Association, Northern Lehigh Historical Society, Lehigh Township Historical Society, Slatington Volunteer Fire Company Endowment Fund, and the Northern Lehigh Community Center.

Initially located at 326 Main Street after Bechtel purchased the former Moyer's Drugstore from Charles F. Moyer, the business relocated to its current site in 1971.

"My wife never saw the store until after I purchased it," Bechtel said. "And when she saw it, she said, 'oh my God, you paid that for this.'"

Before the business became woven into the very fabric of the community, Bechtel began his career at the then Teeter's Pharmacy, which is now Shipman's Pharmacy, along Delaware Avenue in Palmerton.

"This is just wonderful for me to have come into a community where I was a complete unknown, and I knew no one," Bechtel said. "After 50 years, I've become an adopted citizen of Slatington."

Bechtel said his business was "probably one of the first stores in Lehigh County to be computerized."

"We became computerized, rather than pricing things manually," he said. "Also, insurance companies were coming into being and wanted everything to be processed electronically."

Bechtel said he has observed several prominent changes in the field of pharmaceuticals over the decades.

"Mainly changes with the proliferations of chain pharmacies, which has made the competition fierce," he said. "Things are a lot different now than they were 50 years ago."

The business was so successful that Bechtel decided in 1985 to open a second pharmacy at 4429 Lehigh Drive in Berlinsville, Lehigh Township, Northampton County.

Another crowning achievement occurred In 1994, when Bechtel was the recipient of the Bowl of Hygea Award, presented annually to one person in each of the 50 states based on the community work that they do.

A native of Lansford who graduated from St. Ann's High School in Lansford in 1953, and the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy in 1957, Bechtel resides in Slatington with his wife, Elizabeth.

Come this October, the couple will be married for 54 years. Together, they have eight children and 22 grandchildren.

"Slatington has been very good to me," he said. "It's a great community to raise a family."

Bechtel's Pharmacy in Slatington is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9-2 Saturday. The pharmacy in Lehigh Township is open from 9-6 Monday through Friday, and 9-2 Saturday.