Independent Superstars 2001

October 15, 2001

who are the independent superstars of 2001?

 

SPECIAL REPORT

Independent Superstars 2001

Who are some of the stars of independent pharmacy, and what contributions are they making to the communities they serve? A questionnaire was polybagged with Drug Topics to wholesalers across the country, asking them to nominate independent pharmacies that shine above the rest, particularly in four areas: pharmacy and nonpharmacy services, merchandising/advertising/promotion, overcoming competition, and crisis handling.

The pharmacies made our honor roll by going head-to-head with stronger, larger chains; going out on a limb for patients; and providing services that are second to none. There's no better time than National Pharmacy week, Oct. 21 to 27, to congratulate these superstars for being the best they can be for their communities. What follows is a sampling of what some of these standouts are accomplishing.

Exceptional pharmacy and nonpharmacy services

In one corner of Harry's Pharmacy you'll find a large cabinet with sliding glass doors filled with medications, some in crude form that are at least 100 years old. Just 10 ft. away, a bank of computers occupies another area.

That juxtaposition of old and new is no accident. The mementos of the past are a very special part of this 135-year-old corner drugstore, which serves Carey, Ohio's population of 3,700. They are a tribute to owner and pharmacist Randy Myers' grandfather, who bought the drugstore in 1936. The computers, on the other hand, reflect Myers' implementation of technology since buying the pharmacy from his pharmacist dad, 11 years ago. "The automated part is the biggest change over the years, but we still provide customer service and good patient care," said Myers.

Myers said that 10 years ago, he started to think about how the pharmacy could become more actively involved in patient care. His thinking resulted in a remodeling, which included a consultation center in the "new" 2,400-sq. ft. store. "The remodeling enabled our pharmacists to be out in front of the Rx counter. We do sit down for face-to-face interaction with patients every time. This allows us to evaluate whether a patient is compliant with his or her medication and is taking it correctly," said Myers.

Dan Murphy, R.Ph., co-owner of Chelsea Pharmacy, Chelsea, Mich., doesn't think twice about providing residents of several nearby retirement communities with free delivery of any item the store carries, including milk, bread, greeting cards, and prescriptions. He also helps local schools, churches, and organizations sell tickets to their functions.

"I started working here when I was 13 years old. I saw what the community needs. We're a close-knit community," said Murphy, who has been co-owner of the store for 52 years. Although the community has a population of 3,600, it attracts 20,000 shoppers. Of the one chain store located across the street, Murphy said, "It doesn't bother us. We offer 24-hour on-call service, blood pressure testing, and diabetes counseling."

Murphy's son, Brady, R.Ph., is manager of the store, which is being remodeled. "We are rearranging the store so it will be like new in order to increase business and give better customer service," said Dan.

In Clifton, Texas, population 3,500, independents and chains are eager to serve their community, which is home to a great number of retirees. Albrecht's Pharmacy, founded in 1968 has never stood still long enough to let the competition win. Owner Gene Albrecht, R.Ph., and his brother, Clinton, R.Ph., who joined the pharmacy in 1983, are always on the prowl for a new niche and to implement new technology.

As their nominator put it, "The Albrechts' success comes from their forward-thinking business practices, including a Web site and an automated pharmaceutical dispensing system, which is also linked to their state-of-the-art computer system."

"We do everything we can. We put in Baker cells last November. The year before, we put in a point-of-sale system. Two years ago, we installed a drive-thru. Three years ago, we got into vitamins, herbs, and homeopathy. From day one, we had a Hallmark and gift shop," said Gene Albrecht, who has owned the pharmacy since 1968.

Albrecht said that while installing a drive-thru has reduced the number of people who come into the store and slowed sales of over-the-counter items, the Rx business has increased at the drive-thru. "With automation, we can process more scripts," he said.

"We offer one-stop shopping for home medical care. Our services include counseling for Rxs, oxygen and equipment usage, assistance in filing medical insurance claims, delivery service, and 24-hour service," states the copy on the B&K Prescription Shop Web site.

Blood glucose, osteoporosis, cholesterol, and blood pressure screenings are also a part of B&K Prescription Shop's daily strategy in servicing patients. The Salina, Kan.-based independent pharmacy, co-owned by Jeff Denton, R.Ph., since 1969, is also involved in the compounding of respiratory medication and providing oxygen, braces, orthotics, and prosthetics. With competitors like Wal-Mart, Kmart, and supermarket pharmacies in the vicinity, B&K realized the importance of installing the Baker cell system for automatic ordering and dispensing.

"As the chains get busier, they get less efficient. People have to wait hours. Here they get their prescription filled quickly," said Denton. In the past 20 years, the pharmacy has grown to meet the needs of the community, with four additions that have increased space from 1,200 sq. ft. to 5,000 sq. ft.

The Drug Store Health Mart in Lincolnton, N.C., a bedroom community of Charlotte, succeeds at catering to a wide range of customers and providing a myriad of services from compounding to screenings to flu immunizations to durable medical equipment (DME). Determined to provide patients with a more convenient place to obtain these services, the drugstore moved last year to a new location, increasing its space from 2,400 sq. ft. to 5,500 sq. ft.

"Once I owned my own store, I tried to do screenings and counseling, even in our old location with limited space," said George Brookins, R.Ph., a 25-year veteran of pharmacy who has owned the drugstore for six years. With Wal-Mart, CVS, Eckerd, and strong independents having a presence in town, he makes it his business to spend time fitting diabetes patients for shoes, performing bone density screenings, and offering flu vaccinations. He also provides delivery service and house charge accounts.

Believing that it is important to give back to the community he serves, Brookins actively supports local sports teams and was a major contributor in the building of a YMCA.

It doesn't hurt business that DeKalb PharmaCare, Auburn, Ind., is located in a three-story medical office building attached to a hospital. Owner Doug Crane, R.Ph., who has been leasing this space from the hospital since June 1992, explained that the hospital added another 1,000 sq. ft. to the 1,000 sq. ft. the pharmacy occupied.

What has really propelled this pharmacy forward is that it is the only one in the immediate area that specializes in compounding. With the aid of a nurse, who counsels patients, compounding of natural hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has grown.

The pharmacy also provides DME through a franchise it purchased called ConvaCare. ConvaCare "owns all the equipment and put it in the store, and it does the Medicare and insurance billing and gives us a percentage of revenues collected," said Crane.

In addition to DeKalb PharmaCare, Crane owns three other pharmacies as well as a freestanding DME business. He also received a nomination for Independent Superstar in the category of advertising and promotion for his pharmacy, Hicksville PharmaCare, Hicksville, Ohio.

Exceptional merchandising/advertising/promotion

Osborn Drugs, Miami, Okla., takes advertising and promotion seriously. These efforts have paid off handsomely for this 30-year-old pharmacy founded by William Osborn. His son, Bill Osborn, D.Ph., who joined the store in 1984 and is now president, was enthusiastic when he described the store's Osborn Advantage Program. The program has 2,000 families enrolled. On a quarterly basis, the pharmacy awards a $4 coupon for every 100 points customers log in its point-of-sale system.

In addition to this promotion, the pharmacy found it pays to advertise. Every Sunday, a half-page newspaper ad appears in the local paper, and prior to the heavy Christmas selling season, the store relies on TV commercials. "We're in a small market. TV markets are relatively inexpensive here compared with Tulsa and Oklahoma City," said Osborn. "A news spot here costs $100 compared with $1,000 in Tulsa."

Osborn believes the drugstore's stocking of a wide variety of merchandise helps the facility outshine its competition. The selection includes a full gift department, featuring Yankee Candles and Precious Moments and Hummel figurines, as well as Elizabeth Arden cosmetics, a one-hour photo lab, and DME.

Overcoming competition

In the past two years, 17 independents in Toledo, Ohio, have chucked their "Open for Business" signs. Five chains still loom nearby. How does a 22-year-old independent drugstore like Shaffer Pharmacy stay ahead of the curve? The owner, Tom Tadsen, R.Ph., credits his pharmacy's survival to his entry into niche therapeutic markets. "We specialize in markets such as infertility treatments, chemotherapy, and homeopathy," he said.

"Try Shaffer. We Care" is the pharmacy's motto. In keeping with that philosophy, Tadsen said, "We will do whatever patients need—we deliver, fill patient trays for the elderly, and do a lot of counseling to physicians. We go into the community and speak at schools on topics such as attention deficit disorder and diabetes," he said.

Despite the presence of Kmart, Wal-Mart, Rite Aid, and Spartan, Nelson's Drug Store remains a fixture on Main Street in Gaylord, Mich. For almost a decade, Donna Fopma, R.Ph., and her husband, Doug, have owned Nelson's, which its original owners opened in the 1950s. "A drugstore has been located here for 100 years," said Doug Fopma.

What's the Fopmas' philosophy for success? "We try to provide what customers need. We want them to be able to talk to the pharmacist and feel the pharmacist is easily accessible. We try to provide better service, and we have specialties. We have our own compounding lab, and we do billing for Medicare for DME and diabetic supplies," said Doug Fopma.

Nelson's Drug Store doesn't skimp on inventory. Greeting cards, gifts, knickknacks, lamps, T-shirts, sweatshirts, vitamins, herbals, OTCs, and DME fill this 8,000-sq. ft. store. The store was remodeled and expanded three years ago when the Fopmas bought the building next to it and added space to the existing facility.

Crisis handling

When Larry Hobbs, R.Ph., received a call from the police on Dec. 7, 2000, at 4:00 a.m., it was already too late. A fire that started in the refrigerator's compressor during the night had already destroyed Larry's Health Mart & Compounding Pharmacy in Sulphur, Okla. "We had stock built up through the ceiling—we had lots of gifts, a compounding lab, chemicals, equipment, pharmacy and prescription stock. The fire destroyed everything we had," he said.

Larry's Health Mart & Compounding Pharmacy was out of business for only four days thanks to the generosity and kindness of a friend who owned an unoccupied auto parts store. "He told me to move in there and use it for as long as I needed. As time rolled on, this location has done better than the one we had. I'm doing more business now with limited inventory. We're going to remodel," said Hobbs optimistically.

Hobbs recalled how other friends came to his aid to help him paint the new store. Since a large portion of his business is compounding for 400 patients who receive HRT, he appreciated the fact that three compounding pharmacies in different towns said, "We'll get you supplies for two weeks." Other independent pharmacies in the area allowed him to run his phone line to their store. "I had people come by and ask, "What can I do?' The people here are so supportive," said Hobbs gratefully.

Sandra Levy

 

CATEGORY 1
EXCEPTIONAL PHARMACY AND NONPHARMACY SERVICES

Albrecht's Pharmacy
Clifton, Texas

B&K Prescription Shop
Salina, Kan.

Chelsea Pharmacy
Chelsea, Mich.

Dave's Pharmacy
Harlan, Iowa

DeKalb PharmaCare
Auburn, Ind.

Drug Store Health Mart
Lincolnton, N.C.

Drug Mart of Millwood
Millwood, N.Y.

Good Shepard Pharmacy
El Paso, Texas

Gurley's Main Street Pharmacy
Durham, N.C.

Harry's Pharmacy
Carey, Ohio

LeFave Pharmacy & Home Medical Equipment
Alpena, Mich.

Model Pharmacy
Modesto, Calif.

Moser Pharmacy
Salem, Mo.

Osterhaus Pharmacy
Maquoketa, Iowa

CATEGORY 2
EXCEPTIONAL MERCHANDISING/ADVERTISING/PROMOTION

Evers Pharmacy
Collinsville, Ill.

Hicksville PharmaCare
Hicksville, Ohio

Osborn Drugs
Miami, Okla.

Rancho Santa Fe Pharmacy
Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

Setzer Pharmacy
St. Paul, Minn.

Value Drugs
Yonkers, N.Y.

Varsity Drug
Lamoni, Iowa

Widner Drug
Manchester, Iowa

CATEGORY 3
OVERCOMING COMPETITION

CATEGORY 4
HANDLING A CRISIS

Eldridge Pharmacy
Eldridge, Iowa

Henry Roberts Express Pharmacy
Ardmore, Okla.

Nelson's Drug Store
Gaylord, Mich.

Plaza Drugs Inc.
Las Vegas, N.M.

Shaffer Pharmacy
Toledo, Ohio

Standard Drug Stores
St. Charles, Mo.

Stephens Pharmacy
Bolivar, Mo.

Cross River PharmacyLarry's Health Mart & Compounding Pharmacy

 



Sandra Levy. Independent Superstars 2001.

Drug Topics

2001;21:23.