“One out of five zip codes in the United States don’t have a big chain drug store. They’re served by locally-owned, small business independent pharmacies,” says Douglas Hoey, NCPA’s CEO. Many small town communities depend on their local independent pharmacy as the only pharmacy available for miles.
One of these pharmacies is Back Home Pharmacy in Waverly, VA. Before owners George Fetko and Aaron Lohnes opened the store this past February, there were a grand total of zero pharmacies in town. No chain pharmacies, no independents. Residents of Waverly had to drive to a neighboring town to get their prescriptions. When Fetko and Lohnes realized this health care gap in the community, they knew they had to do something about it.
“[The owners] saw an area that was underserved and didn’t have a pharmacy in a close distance. A lot of these people have to get rides to places or they have to walk to places. So having a pharmacy that’s kind of in the center of town is really beneficial for them,” says Sarah Mason, pharmacist-in-charge at Back Home Pharmacy.
Fetko and Lohnes were already running Hometown Drug in Hopewell, VA when they had the idea to open a second location. With their experience running the first store, they were able to easily fill the gap in Waverly and help its residents stay closer to home during COVID-19 safety measures. Back Home Pharmacy is now up and running, but their grand opening has been put on hold until it is safe to do so. For now, their primary marketing is done through word of mouth.
“The doctor’s office next door will let their patients know that we’re open. And then our own customers that come in will say ‘Oh, I’m going to tell my family and my friends’,” explains Sarah Mason. In a small town like Waverly, this strategy is fairly effective when the message doesn’t have to travel far.
Back Home Pharmacy has started offering curbside services and hopes to soon get their delivery service officially up and running using the PioneerRx Mobile Delivery App. As they try to get settled into the community and adapt to the unusual circumstances, the team at Back Home Pharmacy is looking forward to becoming a valuable resource for many residents in town who depend on the pharmacy’s services as their only viable option.
Right now, they are focused on just being there for their patients through uncertain times. “We want to make sure we’re understanding that people are uncomfortable during this time and they’re unsure,” explains Mason. “We are just trying to cater to whatever they need.”