Grassroots Pharmacy is owned and operated by Shelley and Lindsey Roberts. Shelley opened the pharmacy in March of 2017 and as the pharmacy grew her husband, Lindsey, began working there as well.
Both have a long history in pharmacy. Shelley got her start early as a volunteer at the local hospital where she grew up.
“I was a candy striper when I was in high school and I would go to the pharmacy at the hospital as a volunteer,” Shelley said. “That’s where I was first introduced to pharmacy and I knew very early that I wanted to be a pharmacist, so I went to pharmacy school at University of Kentucky.”
Shelley got a job at a large retail pharmacy just before entering pharmacy school and would ultimately stay there for more than a decade.
“I really enjoyed community pharmacy, at this particular big box pharmacy everything was very old fashioned in the sense that you got to know your patients,” Shelley said.
Around 2016 times began to change and Shelley started to make plans with her husband to make a change.
“In 2016 I could see that the store was not going to be around forever and I couldn’t imagine working at a different big box store where I could enjoy patient care,” Shelley said. “My husband and I had talked about running our own pharmacy, but we really never got completely onboard, we had been saving money in case, but it was 2016 when we made the decision.”
“We are really embedded in the community and a lot of customers we’ve gotten have come from that involvement.”
Three days after she left the chain store, she was open for business as an independent. She also now had the opportunity to control all the operations of the pharmacy.
“I love being a pharmacist, but being a pharmacist is not the only thing that I love. I really do enjoy business and the freedom to try things and control my own destiny,” Shelley said. “I’m also fairly creative, so I do a lot of our marketing. I get to more creative than just being a pharmacist.”
Once her husband joined they started to get more involved in the community.
“We do a lot in the community, my husband started a running club for youth, we’ve got running programs for three schools and he has a club team that goes to different parts of the country,” Shelley said. “We are really embedded in the community and a lot of customers we’ve gotten have come from that involvement.”
The running club is based in helping people be healthier so that they ultimately won’t need to use as many medications.
“We do service some people that are a little older and we offer compliance packaging at no additional charge,”
“It’s our goal to keep people healthier and use less medicine, which is counterintuitive to being a pharmacy, but that’s our goal,” Shelley said.
Their service to the community doesn’t end with running.
“We do service some people that are a little older and we offer compliance packaging at no additional charge,” Shelley said. “A lot of the patients that need these services might be Medicaid or Medicare, they take a lot of medicine and honestly, if they’re not taking their medicine currently that’s very wasteful to the system.”
Shelley views it as a service not just to the more elderly members of her community, but to the taxpayer as well. To help ensure patients are in compliance with all their drugs and supplements, Grassroots requires patients in those compliance programs get all drugs and supplements with them. This helps to ensure they are taking everything they need to, and they meet with them more regularly.
And though the Roberts’ have found success in their services and their community engagement, they face the same challenges that many other independent pharmacies do, cash flow and PBMs.
“The frustration is knowing what we are doing for the members of the PBMs and not getting the appreciation from the PBMs,” Shelley said. “That’s probably the most frustrating thing.”
Shelley and Lindsey are taking measures to help combat part of the issue by how they run their business.
Shelley said, “We work really hard at maintaining inventory turns, taking advantage of auto-refills. We know when they’re going to be out of medicine and we can control getting everything filled when it’s supposed to be filled knowing when to order those expensive drugs.”
Currently, Grassroots is operated by the Roberts’ and four employees, they have one location, but are considering an additional one.
“We want grassroots pharmacies to exist to replace that model (big box stores) and we’re looking at a second location, trying to decide if we can manage that,” Shelley said. “We’re also careful, our model isn’t going to work everywhere.”