There’s a first time for everything, and in a small town, those firsts call for celebration. Whether it's the first grocery store, the first bank, or even the first independent pharmacy, it's worth noting.
In Carrboro, NC, that first belongs to Carrboro Family Pharmacy. After starting out as a pharmacy intern, Pharmacist and Owner Keiko Bury knows the ins and outs of this healthcare destination.
Having owned it since January 2019, she knows firsthand the value of forward-thinking and innovation in the industry — traits that Carrboro Family Pharmacy embraces on a daily basis.
She also manages to retain the pharmacy’s local charm that longtime patients know and love.
“I fell into pharmacy by accident.”
That’s what Keiko says when asked how she started working in the industry. She began working as a pharmacy technician in her high school years at a local pharmacy before going to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for her undergraduate career.
Keiko then became a pharmacy intern for Carrboro Family Pharmacy while completing her pharmacy degree at UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.
She then became a pharmacist for Carrboro, eventually becoming the owner of the pharmacy in January 2019.
A town with a population of around 21,000, Carrboro maintains a hometown feel among its residents. It’s also known for its farmers' market, which showcases the town’s farmers and artisans and the benefits of locally grown produce.
It’s been going strong as a nationally recognized attraction since 1979 while still staying true to its local roots.
Much like its farmers’ market, Carrboro Family Pharmacy embraces change while never forgetting its core essence.
When Keiko took the reins of ownership in January 2019, she was confident she could retain the pharmacy’s local charm while taking bold, new directions.
“It helped a lot that I had worked here under [previous owner Ben Cutrell] for so long so the customers were familiar with me,” Keiko says. “I wasn’t just a stranger coming in and taking over.”
Carrboro Family Pharmacy is a bona fide healthcare destination that offers more than just pills in a bottle.
On the pharmacy side of things, it provides bubble packaging for adherence, local delivery services, a wide array of immunizations, and a comprehensive assortment of over-the-counter products.
It also puts the “local” in “local pharmacy” by selling products made from Carrboro’s neighboring towns such as Norm’s Farms Elderberry (Pittsboro) and Carolina Crud Crusher Expectorant (Shallotte).
Working or even shopping at an independent pharmacy feels like a breath of fresh air. Behind the pharmacy counter, Keiko embraces the freedom independents provide compared to their chain counterparts.
“I love how an independent setting provides a free range.” She continues, “What I mean by that is how there’s no red tape. If something isn’t working, our staff get together and come up with ideas on how to fix it. There are no meetings or no formalities like that. We have input from everyone and we are able to change things on the fly.”
Carrboro Family Pharmacy runs with this freedom by providing personalized patient care, a huge point of focus for Keiko.
“I know all of my staff, I know all my patients. That’s the advantage of being a smaller, tight-knit pharmacy.”
Problem-solving and pharmacy work go hand in hand. The pharmaceutical playing field changes daily, and the best independent pharmacies welcome the uncertainty.
Just a year into owning Carrboro Family Pharmacy, the pharmaceutical world — the entire world — turned upside down.
There was no foolproof playbook to help pharmacies navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. They had to play it by ear and come up with a plan that best suited their needs.
Keiko takes pride in her pharmacy staff’s open communication with each other.
This kind of transparency often leads to greater camaraderie and work chemistry. And when it comes to pharmacy work, synergy is an invaluable and unteachable superpower.
It also doesn’t hurt to have a reliable pharmacy software system.
“PioneerRx played a big part in getting through the pandemic,” Keiko says. “Most of our communication to our patients was through text messages so that feature helped us survive.”
She credits PioneerRx for not only getting through the uncertainty of the pandemic but also pushing Carrboro Family Pharmacy to greater and more state-of-the-art heights.
It takes ambition to run a successful business. It also requires the owner to note how they can innovate at any given time. Keiko Bury and Carrboro Family Pharmacy enjoy welcoming pharmacy students and preceptors to give old ideas a facelift.
“I’m right in the center of a very unique place where a lot of people are open and forward-thinking,” she says. “We talk with new students who have new ideas, are tech-savvy, and aren’t scared to try new things out.” She hopes Carrboro Family Pharmacy will move to a larger facility due to a sudden influx of new patients over the last few months.
Beyond that, she sees the pharmacy becoming a more health-focused facility that offers even more services than dispensing medications.
The future is bright for independent pharmacies, and Carrboro Family Pharmacy is a stellar example of small-town values and the willingness to embrace the fabulous new.