Jon and Erin Hess always knew that they’d own their own pharmacy someday. A couple of weeks ago, they made that dream come true in Hannibal as their drugstore opened its doors in the village’s medical building on Route 3.
“We always knew we were coming here,” said Erin Hess. “It’s a long-term dream for me,” said Jon.
They’re both pharmacists. They met in pharmacy school in Albany. She was from Ft. Ann, in the Saratoga region.
Jon worked for a succession of independent pharmacies starting the day after he graduated from Hannibal High School. He worked at Wayne’s Drugs’ various locations as well as at pharmacies in Wolcott, Newark and elsewhere.
His last experience, working for chain drugstore Kinney Drugs, provided the final push. Though he won the company’s Pharmacist of the Year honors, the chain’s growth brought changes he could not tolerate.
So the couple began working towards opening the Hannibal pharmacy. They compressed 9-12 months of paperwork into 5 months in order to open in August. They have 3 employees, drawn from Jon’s extended family.
And from the beginning, business has been above their expectations. “Based on what research I’ve done, it’s outstanding,” said Jon. Erin, more cautiously, says, “We’re very pleased with the support from the community.”
They’re trying to make theirs a hometown pharmacy, something the village hasn’t had in a quarter-century (Rite-Aid has a chain outlet just down the street). They’re offering deliveries, something that’s essential for older people in an Oswego County winter. They’ll help you transfer your prescriptions to their store. They’ll counsel you on the mix of prescription drugs you’re taking. And Jon will indulge his passion for old-fashioned pharmacy by making prescriptions by hand when necessary. Some skin preparations, for example, need to be mixed to unique specifications.
The 24-hour phone number isn’t hidden in tiny type — it’s on the outside of the building in big, bold letters. And there’s no voice-mail system when you call during the day — a human answers.
Independent pharmacies have struggled to survive in recent years. Many sold out to the growing chains, such as Rite-Aid, or just closed. The number of independent pharmacists left in America appears to have stabilized, but the same statistics show independents are filling far fewer prescriptions than the chain outlets.
Their goal is to open a string of independent pharmacies, running counter to the tide of pharmacies operated by national chains. But for now, Erin will keep her day job as supervising pharmacist at the Medicine Place in Fulton, another independent pharmacy, and they will enjoy the benefits of staking a claim in their hometown.
“I don’t have to drive 2 hours a day,” said Jon. “I don’t have to answer to someone above me who has no professional pharmacy experience.” Said Erin, “It’s really a nice thing for people to have, a pharmacy where they know the owners.”