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Pharmacy makes changes to suit customers


Fri, Oct 11th, 2013
Posted in Harmony Features

Running any business in a small town is a challenge. Many small towns in Fillmore County have lost businesses, sometimes vital ones, because there is simply not enough business to support them.

Sterling Pharmacy in Harmony, Minn., owned by Astrup Drug out of Austin, Minn., was struggling recently, and owners were looking at options that would help them stay open. Sam Ewing, Vice President of Operations, and Tim Gallagher, the chief operating officer, were facing some hard decisions.

“There are a lot of small communities losing their pharmacies these days,” said Gallagher. He added there are a lot of people on Medicare, and with government cutting reimbursements, pharmacies are making less money.

“It’s a challenge,” he said. “It’s difficult to support a town of less than 2,000 people.”

They were looking at cutting expenses, and the most obvious option was to cut back on payroll by being open fewer hours. They decided to close the pharmacy on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Many people were concerned that the reduction in hours would lead to an eventual closing.

“We all felt it was very important to keep a drug store in town,” said Jean Ingvalson, President of the Harmony Chamber of Commerce. “Any time a business closes or has the potential to close, it hurts small towns.”

The Harmony EDA (Economic Development Authority) also became involved, as well as the City of Harmony. A meeting was held in Austin with Ewing and Gallagher to discuss other options.

Chris Giesen of the Harmony EDA explained the survey they came up with. This survey was sent to residents of Harmony with questions regarding Sterling Pharmacy. People were asked their reasons for not shopping there or using the pharmacy, and asked about things like parking, customer service, prices, and hours. They received 175 responses.

“From a statistical standpoint, that’s a pretty good representation of what people want,” said Giesen.

An overwhelming majority of people had concerns with the hours, and most people said they would like the pharmacy to be open later in the evening and on Saturdays.

“Many people work out of town, and it’s hard to get back by 5,” said Giesen.

Ewing and Gallagher were open to any and all suggestions, and were happy to accommodate the community.

“We really need to listen to what the community is saying,” said Gallagher. “We need the support of the community. Any business needs locals to support.”

The final decision has the pharmacy open 13 fewer hours per week, but the hours will hopefully be more convenient. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday it is open from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The hours on Saturdays are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It will be closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The changes go into effect Monday, October 14.

Ewing and Gallagher spoke highly of the people of Harmony and their efforts to help. “They were great to work with,” said Ewing. “It’s great to do business in a community like this one.”

Gallagher stressed that although being closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays may be inconvenient, the pharmacy still offers free delivery and will mail out prescriptions. They also offer the same discounts as always, price match guarantee, and a punch card for prescriptions.

“We’re hoping it’s a win-win situation,” he said.

Gallagher also mentioned the cascade effect of a pharmacy closing. “When a pharmacy leaves, sometimes the local clinic shuts down, or sometimes there’s a small hospital that will close.”

“We hope people realize that supporting all local businesses is important,” said Ewing.

Supporting local businesses to keep them going is something everyone involved feels strongly about. Giesen stressed the importance of the pharmacy, and of all local businesses, to the community.

“Every time a dollar is spent outside the community, it’s really hard to get that dollar back,” said Giesen. “If people aren’t supporting businesses, it’s hard to offer services.”

Giesen said they could see that Sterling Pharmacy is “in it for the long haul,” and everyone wants to see them make it work.

“They were great to work with,” he added. “I’m glad they were willing to work with us.”

“We wanted to be supportive of them,” said Ingvalson. “Just like we would do with any business.”

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4139

8:03:39, Oct 19th 2013

wondering says:
So what happens if you get sick and need a prescription filled on Tues and Thurs? Waist a critical 24 hours of needed medicine? If you have to go out of town to fill on Tues and Thurs why not any other day then?


5093

6:10:29, Jan 29th 2014

living in harmony says:
U don't use it. You will lose it. If they are running in the red why stay open?