In a world increasingly filled with homogenous big box stores that sell everything yet specialize in nothing, it is a welcome opportunity to showcase an independent, neighbourhood business that has stood the test of time by taking a different approach. In a time when national chain drug stores saturate the market, Drugtown Pharmacy has remained steadfast to the founding principles on which the business was established—to give patients personalized care, attentive customer service and a genuine interest in their well-being.
Established in central Etobicoke, Ont. in 1960 by Jack Bloomberg, Drugtown Pharmacy has fulfilled the healthcare needs of multiple generations of the neighbourhood’s residents. In 2010, long-time employees Chris Theis, Mila Gulan and Michael Massarotto took over the business from Mr. Bloomberg, and have further enhanced the character and role of Drugtown Pharmacy in the community.
“The success of Drugtown Pharmacy was built on customer service,” says Theis. “Children of parents who once visited the pharmacy are now bringing in their children for the personalized care, and comprehensive professional pharmacy services that we offer. Our customers know and trust us because we have demonstrated that we share and respect their trust and truly care for their well -being.”
The growth of corporate chains and advent of pharmacy in grocery and big box retailers have provided not only competition for Drugtown, but opportunity as well. “Pharmacy is our business, not a sideline”, says Mike. “Our focus is on complete patient and customer satisfaction.” Professionally, Theis says it is much more rewarding as well. “I realized that I get a lot of satisfaction by building relationships with my patients. I am really motivated to help Mrs. Smith, because not only do I know Mrs. Smith and her problems, I have been able to work through some of these issues with her over time. I know what impact my professional help has on her and also on her family.”
In a world increasingly built on the bottom line, Drugtown Pharmacy has created a perfect equilibrium between business and community engagement. The team at Drugtown Pharmacy are confident that they are the best at what they do, and plan to maintain the exemplary style and service that has kept the business thriving for over 50 years.
“We don’t want to be doing twice as much business in the pharmacy than we are, because if we did, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do,” says Chris. “If we grow, we want to grow incrementally and always be able to maintain the level of service our patients are accustomed to.”
Both in person, and on the phone, the on-duty pharmacist at Drugtown Pharmacy is always available. There is no phone maze. There is always face time. “Every time a customer calls or comes in, whether it’s their first or 110th time, we will spend the time with them to make sure they really understand what’s going on with their treatment,” explains Theis. “We make sure we inform the customer and that she or he understands the important stuff about it. It often happens that people tell us ‘No one has explained that about my prescription before’. That’s what brings our customers back.”
As a pillar of the community, Drugtown Pharmacy strives to participate in and support local events, whether it’s providing auction items for various causes, such as raising funds for students, churches or retirement communities or sponsoring local hockey and baseball teams. “We focus on our local community and, through our support, we feel that we are staying in touch with people, and if the issues are important to our customers, they are important to us. We also support local pharmacy students through co-op programs, teaching them about what it takes to provide a good service,” says Theis.
The management at Drugtown see their employees and co-op students as an integral part of their team. Chris, Mila and Michael have consideration for their employees outside educational commitments, and are happy to provide a flexible schedule to accommodate their studies. “We truly take an interest in their lives. For many students, we are their first part-time job. Along with school, we really feel it’s part of our responsibility to help turn out a well-rounded person when they finish their stay here,” says Mike.
“We strive to give our staff the support and time to succeed both here and outside the store.”
The three partners say they are always thrilled when they see their employees mature from part-time customer service to a greater role in pharmacy, health care or any field they end up choosing.
One student who started as a part time customer service employee was interested and keen enough to take on more and more responsibilities in the pharmacy. This year she started her first year at the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto, making her the second student in last six years that have gone on from working for Drugtown to becoming a pharmacist.
Chris, Mila and Michael are deeply involved in the day to day operations of the business. This allows them to adapt to changes in the market place faster than the large corporate pharmacy chains can. The store maintains many long-term relationships with its suppliers and their sales force. This allows both Drugtown and the supplier to work together to help meet and satisfy the needs of Drugtown’s patients and customers. “We want to partner with groups who can bring something different and better,” explains Theis.
“Our suppliers can come in and show me a good new product that our customers can benefit from. We give them the opportunity to bring their product to the market quickly through our store. In turn, we become part of the marketing and selling process in a way that is more engaging than a spreadsheet analysis from a big chain store.”
Drugtown Pharmacy continues to expand the service side, offering free MedsCheck consultations, free Clinic Days, and free local delivery. This well-established neighbourhood pharmacy continues to provide exceptional service led by its experienced staff that can offer service in 5 languages. You will find all the items traditionally found in a full service drugstore such as over the counter medications, as well as a unique blend of domestic and imported health and beauty aids, cosmetics, gifts, greeting cards and everything in between. An indelible part of the neighbourhood and its customers’ lives, Drugtown Pharmacy puts the dependant in independent retailer.