More than the name is changing at the Eagleton pharmacy formerly known at the Medicine Shoppe.
In eight months, people won’t even recognize the building, but co-owner Don Walker said customers will recognize the staff filling their prescriptions.
“New name, same people,” Walker said when asked to explain the name change from the Medicine Shoppe to Village Pharmacy. For example, Walker says there are plans to build a new pharmacy behind the current at 2541 East Broadway Avenue.
Walker and his wife, Roberta, bought the franchise for their East Broadway store on Nov. 28, 1977. It took seven months to get up and running. They moved to their current location down the street from the original one in 1990.
Their original franchise contract with the Medicine Shoppe company was a 20-year contract, and they renegotiated a 10-year contract 10 years ago. Because of changes in the industry, Walker said it didn’t make sense to him and his wife to be affiliated with a franchise organization anymore. “The parent company was Cardinal Health and they also own Leaders Drug Store brand.”
When they left Medicine Shoppe, they switched to the Leader trademark, said Walker. “We’re under the Leader umbrella and have their private label. Essentially, it’s the same stuff we got from Medicine Shope but with a different name.”
Walker said the name change has had a bigger impact on customers than he thought it would.
“They ask, ‘Are you retiring, leaving?’ and asked questions I didn’t anticipate,” he said.
The answer to retirement and leaving the area is a strong “No.”
“We’re taking our business in a different direction,” said Walker.
The new year is going to be exciting, Walker said. “As soon as we get through various zoning hurdles, we’re going to start construction on a new building with quite a big more square footage, a nice modern building as opposed to this old junker we’ve been in 19 years,” he said. “This building was previously two portable class rooms from Eagleton Elementary School that was torn down 20 years ago.”
Walker said the interior of the new store, which will be located directly behind the existing store, is going to be unique. They are having it designed, built and shipped to Blount from Germany. “It will have a very unique look,” he said. “We hope to be done by first of August.”
New technology is also being implemented. A robot was added to the current facility in mid-December. “What the robot does is free up people to have a lot more contact with customers. The robot does all the counting,” he said. “We input the information which goes directly to the robot. It puts the bottle in front of it and puts a label on it. A pharmacist checks it so there are fewer chances for error. It should also mean faster customer service.”
Another good thing about the switch is an increase in the number of prescription plans accepted by Leader. Leader has more of a selection of insurance plans than Medicine Shoppe, he said.
Walker was quick to thank the people of Blount County for patronizing their business and praise the staff who have worked at the pharmacy throughout the years for making it successful.
“It was the people of Blount County for sure who made it possible. We didn’t know a soul when we came here to open a business and have done very well,” he said. “We’ve had a successful 30-year run, and we’re not done yet. We hope we have another 30 years.”
Walker, 58, said Medicine Shoppe and now Village Pharmacy is a team effort with his wife, Roberta. “My wife is also a pharmacist. Both of us worked really hard together,” he said. “She does the financials, and she does more work than I do.”