PrairieStone Pharmacy: Drug Topics' 2005 Chain of the Year

These days, supersizing is the rage. From colossal food entrees to McMansions to humongous SUVs to mega-sized pharmacies, the mantra is, "The bigger the better."

These days, supersizing is the rage. From colossal food entrees to McMansions to humongous SUVs to mega-sized pharmacies, the mantra is, "The bigger the better."

Not so with Minneapolis-based PrairieStone Pharmacy. The chain intentionally made its debut in November 2003 with a footprint that is only 413 sq. ft. in size. With prescriptions housed on vertical carousels stacked 14 feet up into the ceiling, this newcomer is shaking up the competition with state-of-the-art automation, a compliance packaging program for patients, and superior customer service.

The chain, which currently operates in 14 Byerly's and Lunds grocery stores, is quickly aligning with companies that share its vision. PrairieStone has a presence on Best Buy's corporate campus as well as in eq-life, a retail store that is a wholly owned subsidiary of Best Buy Stores. And if that's not enough, PrairieStone operates a satellite pharmacy for the Tria Orthopaedic Center.

History of the chain PrairieStone was launched with the opening of four pharmacies purchased from Fairview Pharmacy Systems, a hospital group that operated these pharmacies in Lund Food Holdings' Lunds Markets and Byerly's supermarkets. The chain boasts 14 stores and 50 employees, including 25 pharmacists. The chain expects to close 2005 with 25 stores and 100 employees.

"Lunds and Byerly's recognized that they needed a pharmacy presence to be competitive in the Twin Cities marketplace. A lot of the other large grocers in the area have pharmacies. Our model met their needs perfectly. They didn't want to invest in a lot of inside real estate, and our small footprint made a lot of sense to them. Their grocery stores are the epitome of customer service and value," said John Brady, PrairieStone partner and secretary.

Brady explained that although Lunds and Byerly's had pharmacies in four of their 20 stores, these pharmacies were owned by a not-for-profit hospital group that didn't have a focus on retail pharmacy. "Lunds and Byerly's saw a robust amount of experience in us in a variety of pharmacy areas. They saw an innovative model, a customer-focused approach, a willingness to focus on retail pharmacy, and a small business entrepreneurial spirit to get the job done with a sense of urgency."

Indeed, Brady and his partners, Lew Zeidner and Marvin Richardson, R.Ph., are no strangers to the pharmacy industry, and their combined experience is truly robust. Brady has been associated with Cardinal Health, NCS HealthCare, and Novartis. Richardson has had stints with Walgreens and Rite Aid and previously owned an independent retail pharmacy and an institutional pharmacy. Zeidner was president of McKesson Medication Management in the Twin Cities area.

Carving a new niche With chains like CVS, Target, and Walgreens breathing down its neck, PrairieStone is intent on differentiating itself from the pack by rolling out multidose compliance packaging. "We set up the meds by time of administration. This program uses AutoMed technology and automation to presort and prearrange medication. This packaging is universal in hospital and institutional markets, but it's a first for retail pharmacy. We are trying to keep people living healthier longer at home by changing and improving compliance and allowing access to the pharmacist," explained Brady.

PrairieStone's president, Marvin Richardson, recalled that he offered compliance packaging to nursing homes and assisted living facilities when he and his wife owned Low Cost Health Care, a retail and long-term care pharmacy in Indiana. "Back then they had long strips of envelopes that were clear on one side and white or colored on the other side. Each envelope represented meds you could put in for a particular time of day. We were using clotheslines and hand packing these meds in envelopes for people in nursing homes so that nurses could administer them."

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