Importance of Community Involvement
Before he ever owned a pharmacy, Eric Hewitt knew he wanted to be in independent pharmacy. As a student in pharmacy school he was exposed to several avenues for his career as a pharmacist, but none of the others grabbed his attention the same way.
“It felt like the place I wanted to be, I felt like I was able to get know my patients on a personal level,” Eric said. During his time in the industry before becoming an owner he found he “was able to develop relationships with them and truly impact their healthcare in ways that weren’t possible when working for a chain.”
Starting as technician, then a post-grad intern and eventually a pharmacist in 2006, Eric worked his way up to becoming the manager of the store, from which he was born just a half-mile away.
Eric said it was part of “an exit strategy for the previous owner, who had owned Medicine Shoppe since it opened in 1984.” He would manage it for the owner for two years until he bought it from him in 2013. Since becoming an owner, he has done more than get to know his patients, he’s become a key part of healthcare in his community.
“I think it’s the ability to become an integral part of your community that you are operating a pharmacy in,” Eric said about what he gets out of operating the store. “In healthcare it is really important for it to be an interdisciplinary approach between the patient the doctors, the nurses and the pharmacies.”
Eric likes his deep connection to the community and that patients are also your neighbors, your friends and family. He said it adds another personal touch as opposed to the chains that are out there.
He takes his community involvement a step further in a couple ways. He regularly speaks to local health classes about pharmacies and the abuse of prescription drugs. He even won a Generation Rx Champions Award in 2017 for his service. Additionally, he appears on local T.V. show “Talk of the Town” once a month to discuss pharmacy and healthcare topics.
“My patients definitely come in and say, ‘Hey I saw you on T.V. the other day,’” Eric said.
And though he has engrained himself in the community he still faces challenges, one of his biggest is the competition he faces from three nearby chain stores.
“For me what is a challenge operating my pharmacy is the competition, I have three chain stores within less than a one-mile radius around me,” Eric said.
“We’ve had to adapt our services to differentiate ourselves from our competition,” Eric said. “That’s why we do free deliveries, that’s why we do med boxes, it’s why we do assisted living; because it allows us to not only continue to provide the best care for our patients as they continue to age and their life situation changes, but also to differentiate ourselves from the direct competition that we have right around the corner.”
Eric’s 3,000 square-foot store employs 13 people, including three part-time delivery drivers. And though he has differentiated himself and sustained his business he isn’t presently looking to expand.
“I’m only six years into my ownership and hoping to get out from underneath the debt load I had to take on to buy the pharmacy,” Eric said. He’s also looking for more positive change in the industry before considering any type of expansion.
IPC helps Eric keep his business running smoothly, primarily as a secondary wholesaler.
But like every other wholesaler there are, at times, back orders and availability issues.
“Having some place like IPC where we are able to buy what we need when we need it and still get it with next day delivery is huge because we always need a secondary option,” Eric said. “It’s really beneficial to make sure that we are continuing to serve our patients the way that they have come to expect.”
Eric said it’s not just independent pharmacies that are great for communities, but all independent businesses. He said they give back to the local community and money that goes into local businesses comes back to the community.