Independent Superstars of 2002
Independent pharmacies continue to make significant contributions to the communities they serve. Who are some of the supernovas of independent pharmacy? What exceptional services are they providing to patients in their communities?
Questionnaires were mailed with Drug Topics to wholesalers across the country, asking them to nominate independent pharmacies who were first-rate in four areas: pharmacy and nonpharmacy services, merchandising/ advertising/promotion, overcoming competition, and crisis handling. Their nominations are featured below to coincide with National Pharmacy week, Oct. 20-26.
Med Care Pharmacy has been in business for only a year, but the Edinburg, Texas, pharmacy has already found a long-standing formula for success: giving back to the community. "Our passion is diabetes," said R. C. Perez, R.Ph., who co-owns the pharmacy with his wife, Betty Castaneda, R.Ph. The two are determined to operate a pharmacy that is a destination for free diabetes information and education. It is not uncommon for the pharmacy to offer up to 12 hours of free diabetes education classes over a weekend. The pharmacy also provides diabetes education to the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program in Texas.
Perez, who is a certified diabetes educator and has 15 years of experience in treating diabetes patients, said, "We've identified a need in the community to provide information to people who have diabetes."
Vic Vena Pharmacy is only 2,000 sq. ft., but there's nothing meager about the services owner Vic Vena, R.Ph., has been providing for 17 years in Olean, N.Y. "We try to be very upfront with our patients. We counsel them at every opportunitytalk to them, befriend them, know their families, and their interests. They become part of our family," he said. Listening to customers' changing needs in the mid-90s led him to create a wellness store, where he sells herbals, nutritionals such as vitamins and minerals, and homeopathic medicines.
Wal-Mart, Kmart, CVS, Tops Supermarket, Eckerd, and three independents also have a presence in Olean, but that doesn't bother Vena. "We try to build an image as a company that cares about people, that specializes in pharmacy and wellness products. We don't think of ourselves as mass- merchandisers. Getting people in and out of here in a timely fashion is also important."
Vena devotes time to community service. He and his wife have developed a program that provides clothing to needy children. They are also involved with a community-owned farm that offers its excess products to food banks. If that's not enough, he lectures nurses on drugs and herbals and is also responsible for preparing his county for a biochemical terrorism attack.
Steven Boatwright, R.Ph., describes Boatwright Drug Co., Millington, Tenn., this way: "There's a nursing home and assisted care facility behind us. What they need we supply." His father, Leroy, opened the pharmacy in 1957. Although the store fills a very high volume of prescriptions, Steven and his father make it their business to know each patient by name. The pharmacy also prides itself on being an information center, offering diabetes and asthma education, and a destination for flu immunizations.
While the population of Millington is 12,000, Boatwright pointed out that the pharmacy draws patients from outside the county. Aware that there are not that many independents left in the area and that Wal-Mart, Kroger, and Medicap are vying for patients, Boatwright said his philosophy is to offer friendly, fast service and to take care of customers.
What's a mannequin dressed as a bride doing in a pharmacy? Ron Otto, R.Ph., owner of Hillside Pharmacy in Manhattan Beach, Calif., is using it to attract attention to a line of books, cards, and gifts for bridal parties, which he sells in this 6,000-sq. ft. store. In another spot, dubbed "the surfing area," Otto displays surfing magazines and gift items with beach themes, which are popular with tourists who come into the pharmacy.
Otto credited his wife, Lyndell, a costume designer, with buying the unique items the pharmacy sells. These include European soaps, a large card selection, children's books, imported teas, leather picture frames, and decorative masks from Italy.
The pharmacy also carries durable medical equipment (DME), including wheelchairs, crutches, and braces. Because the pharmacy offers compounding and Plan B contraceptive medicine, Otto insists there is no rivalry between his pharmacy and the competition. In fact, he said competitors refer patients to his pharmacy.
Don't be surprised if you see customers of Chaney's Pharmacy being handed a TCBY yogurt at the drive-through window or having a facial inside the store. Brent and Laura Smith, husband and wife R.Ph.s, run Chaney's in this college town of Oxford, Miss. They do what they can to come up with unique offerings to please customers. Brent said the 6,200-sq. ft. pharmacy offers numerous items, including cosmetics, high-end fragrances and gifts, a Hallmark section, and yogurt shop.
"It's like a little department store, yet we're an independent pharmacy," said Brent proudly. Open every day except Christmas, Chaney's takes its Rx business seriously, offering delivery service and charge accounts and accepting third-party insurance plans. The pharmacy also offers DME.
When Keaveny Drug moved to a new location on Oak Avenue in Annandale, Minn., owner Deborah Keaveny, R.Ph., knew she'd be located even closer to a competitor. What gives? "There's more traffic on this block, and we needed more room. We needed to have a bigger pharmacy because we are filling so many prescriptions," she explained.
Annandale, population 2,600, is a popular lake resort that draws an additional 10,000 people in the summer. Keaveny's decision to join her competitor is already paying off. Business is up 75% since she moved in March, she said. She attributed the hike in business to having expanded the front end.
That Keaveny Drug serves patients of a 65-bed nursing home as well as a group home doesn't hurt business either. Keaveny also plans to service patients at an alcohol treatment center.
Sam Alexander, PD, owner of Sam Alexander Pharmacy in Harrison, Ark., has been in retail pharmacy since 1968, and he still believes there's only one way to overcome competition. "I just try to serve my customers. I do not honor discount cards. I try to work with their insurance. I treat customers like people and help them deal with their problems."
Fierce competition in Harrison, population 12,000, comes from the likes of Wal-Mart, Fred's, and USA Drug. But the competition hasn't prompted Alexander to haul in unique front-end items. In fact, he won't stock gifts or perfumes in his store. "I'm too busy doing pharmacy," he said, adding that he does make available a line of DME, ostomy supplies, and sundries.
Wes Brown, R.Ph., owner of Keasling's Pharmacy and Gifts in Keokuk, Iowa, was back in business less than one week after an electrical fire destroyed his pharmacy on a Sunday morning seven years ago. Recalling that crisis, he said, "We rented a location six blocks away and continued business. The fire was on Sunday, and we were operating the following Fridaynot very sophisticatedbut we were in business." Thanks to publicity from the local media and a TV station located 40 miles away in Quincy, Ill., Brown was able to notify customers that he was open for business.
Brown also applauded his son's quick thinking, which helped the pharmacy's swift recovery. While the building was on fire, his son was already on his cell phone ordering a new computer.
With half a dozen pharmacies located nearby, Keasling's, which is the only independent, now offers customers in this town of 12,000 the convenience of a drive-through window and a large parking lot.
What do you do if you are an independent pharmacy located in a supermarket in Columbus, Neb., and the supermarket gives you a month's notice that it is closing its doors?
Bob Ellsworth, R.Ph., who had run Bob's SunMart Pharmacy since 1982 decided to buy a piece of land on a busy corner and build a new pharmacy. The one-month-old pharmacy, renamed Bob's U-Save Pharmacy, competes with Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Hy-Vee Pharmacy, Supersaver, and another strong independent.
Noting that the grocery store allowed his pharmacy to remain in the building until his new pharmacy was built, Ellsworth said he maintained about 95% of his prescription volume.
The new freestanding pharmacy, which is 3,300 sq. ft., cost more than $800,000 and features two drive-up lanes. To compensate for the cost of the new pharmacy, Ellsworth increased the store's hours by 15 a week, and stays open on Sundays. The front end has been spiffed up and features new items. "We're not only a pharmacy, we're also a convenience store."
Below is a complete list of independent pharmacies that got the nod from wholesalers this year. Drug Topics congratulates them all for making a difference in their communities.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Battery Park Pharmacy's employees and patients were forced to deal head-on with the tragedy that has changed America forever. The 19-year-old pharmacy was destroyed. Now, the pharmacy, which took four months to rebuild, is more determined than ever to continue providing great service to its patients, friends, and neighbors.
Reflecting on how the pharmacy was the first shop built in this financial area, Manny Norona, supervising pharmacist, said, "We are located one block away from the World Trade Center. From my door I could see it all. On that day, we opened at 8:00 a.m., so we were here. When the buildings fell, everything came flying toward us. [See photo at right taken by Norona.] My windows were shattered. We closed after we knew that the tragedy was out of hand. A lot of people from the fire and police department were nice enough to move us out."
Although the pharmacy was robbed of medications after the tragedy, Norona doesn't hold a grudge. He's more concerned with helping patients who live and work in the area cope with the aftermath of this terrible tragedy. The community recently held a block party, he said, "If you were in the area when it happened, you have closeness. I'm a friend and also their pharmacist. They have their own stories and problems they have to deal with every day. You have to be there for them. They were there for me," he said.
EXCEPTIONAL PHARMACY AND NONPHARMACY SERVICES
B&K Prescription Shop
Ben's Val Mesa Pharmacy
Boatwright Drug Co.
East End Drug
Jefferson City, Mo.
Godfrey Prescription Shop
Med Care Pharmacy
Pekin Prescription Lab
Pleasant Grove Drugs Inc.
Pleasant Grove, Ala.
St. Clair Rexall
St. Clair, Mo.
Vic Vena Pharmacy
Watson's Health Mart
Winkelmann Sons Drug
St. Louis, Mo.
Wright Drug Co.
Boyds Drug Mart
Rapid City, S.D.
Brown Drug Co.
Complete Care Pharmacy
Manhattan Beach, Calif.
J. Co. Drug
Med Care Pharmacy
Milford Valu-Rite Pharmacy
Quality Discount Drug
Robert Jacobson Surgical Pharmacy
Mt. Kisco, N.Y.
Sac City Drug
Sac City, Iowa
St. Charles Rexall Pharmacy
St. Charles, Mo.
St. Paul Corner Drug
St. Paul, Minn.
Winter Park, Fla.
Bellevue Pharmacy Solutions
St. Louis, Mo.
Dan's Discount Drug Mart
Drugs For Less
Preckshot Professional Pharmacy
Storm Lake, Iowa
Sam Alexander Pharmacy
St. Charles, Mo.
West Pine Pharmacy
St. Louis, Mo.
Wolcott Village Pharmacy
HANDLING A CRISIS
Battery Park Pharmacy
New York, N.Y.
Bob's U-Save Pharmacy
Keasling's Pharmacy and Gifts
Shell Knob, Mo.
Valley Woods Pharmacy
Yorktown Heights, N.Y.
Watson's Health Mart Pharmacy
Lake St. Louis, Mo.
Sandra Levy. Independent Luminaries of 2002. Drug Topics 2002;20:25.