Hannibal Couple Opens Their ‘Dream’, an Independent Pharmacy for the Village

Jon and Erin Hess working behind the counter of their Hannibal Pharmacy store.
Jon and Erin Hess working behind the counter of their Hannibal Pharmacy store.

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 and Erin Hess in the store that they say features prices as low as the wholesaler would let them charge.
Jon and Erin Hess in the store that they say features prices as low as the wholesaler would let them charge.

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.

Hannibal's new pharmacy shares space in the medical building with the practice of Dr. Arena.
Hannibal's new pharmacy shares space in the medical building with the practice of Dr. Arena.

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.”


  1. We moved our prescriptions there, and have been well satisfied. It’s good to have the personalized care that used to be offered by our Maynard Gardner years ago.
    The DuBois family

  2. Jack and Erin are incredibly compassionate, caring, hard working people. They are going to be fantastic owners and take great care of their patients. Congratulations we wish you the best!

  3. Congrats to you both!! Even though I don’t live in NY anymore I am glad to see a small business move in, and happier to see you two be the ones doing it! Good luck in your business and everything else. I know you will do well. I will have to stop in the next time I visit family :)

  4. Every community needs people who are passionate and love the roots of where they come from. The Hess family is a shining example of just that. We are blessed to have them take a big chance on us and we should all be proud to put our trust in them. I have already used their services and not only are they competitive, they have saved me money. It is wonderful to walk into a store and to be called by name. That is the beauty of stores like theirs and our IGA. We are as important to them as they are to us.
    May God Bless.

  5. Congratulations guys!! I am so happy for the both of you! It is nice to see the “little guys” in business and keeping money in the local economy. Good luck to you!!

  6. The sort of investment these two dedicated, earnest folks are making in this important venture is the essence of what makes for community security and well-being. I have had the pleasure of knowing both Jack and Erin. They’re the earnest, kind and hard-working sort of folks that form the back bone of our country. Hannibal and its nearby communities are blessed to have such a great asset as these good people. Please patronize their business, help them in their success and feel good about investing in your hometown. Congrats guys!!!

  7. Congrats Jack and Erin from your fellow Hannibal native and independent pharmacy owner. Miller and I wish you nothing but the best. Call us anytime if you need anything. We are so happy to see your dream come true!

  8. Although it is nice to see your dreams realized, I hope you also realize what your dream is costing the local employees at the pharmacy across the street. I have 5 kids and my income is my family’s only means of support. Because you have stolen some of our customers, my hours will have to be cut and I may have to leave a job I love and have been doing for the past 3 years… if I can even find another job, that is. Thanks.

  9. Amy, i’m sorry you feel this way. I dont think the hess’s are trying to hurt anyone but are living out thier dream. I have been a customer of many pharmacies because i had never found one where i felt like my questions were answered. In no means am i blaming the pharmacy techs but the pharmacists themselves. And i feel rite aid has a history of hiring pharmacists who are rude and uncaring.

  10. Best wishes to Jon and Erin. I am also a pharmacist who graduated from Hannibal, but I do clinical consulting in the Buffalo area. Owning a business is hard work and dedication with much more than 40 hours/week often required (one of the reasons I opted not to open my own pharmacy). I commend you for your success and investment in our home town.

  11. Well, I can’t help the way I feel. And it’s certainly not my nor Vanessa’s fault that the pharmacist’s keep changing here. We work hard and bend over backwards for our customers. It’s actually pretty crappy that some of the people we have done so much for over the years have left because they believe the grass is greener on the other side. That just shows me that some people do not have any loyalty or consideration anymore. And for the record, we actually have a permanent pharmacist now who has years of experience and who is very good with the customers.

  12. Jon & Erin- We wish you the best of luck with your new business adventure! We know the hard work and long hours that it took and takes to open and keep a business going. You both have the courage and drive to make your new business successful and the personalities and compassion to make them want to keep coming back. Good Luck!

  13. Walked in there a couple times now and was promptly greeted, helped with finding what I needed, and back out in a flash. The Pharmacist was very helpful in pointing me to the over the counter medication I needed and it turns out he was absolutely right. After days of suffering the medication he recommended had me feeling better in only an hour after taking it and back on my feet 100% the next day. The store is clean, bright and well organized. All Pharmacies should be like this!

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