Vashon Pharmacy is a storied shop serving a small island at the edge of Seattle. About a year ago Tyler Young and his wife, Amy, purchased it.
The original store opened its doors in 1933, just a few doors north of the pharmacy’s current location. At first called Vashon Drug Store, the pharmacy has changed hands three times and experienced some difficulties along the way.
“It actually burned to the ground completely and it was rebuilt in 1978,” Young said.
The pharmacy is the only one serving the small community and also serves as a tourist attraction and a large part of their store revolves around their gift shop. And though the Youngs aren’t life-long islanders like the previous owners, they both come from smaller communities.
That’s where Tyler got his start to becoming a pharmacist and owner, a small community in the rural east of Washington.
“I worked at a store in Colfax called Tick Klock Drug,” Young said.
Young spent about 10 years working in the type of drug store he now owns.
“It (Tick Klock) was a pharmacy just like this one (Vashon). It was a big busy pharmacy, supporting a community of a couple thousand people in a big outlying area,” Young said.
Young said his start at Tick Klock is where his passion for owning an independent like that took off.
“It was a really interesting model and one that I feel like we’ve seen begin to die off,” Young said. “It’s harder and harder to do, but when it’s done well can really be a staple of a community.”
And though the Youngs are from a small community, it’s not the same small community.
Young said it’s a challenge to be the new owner of a family pharmacy in a small community, but he knew it would be from his experiences growing up in a small town. The community does, however, appreciate the store staying under family ownership
“They (the community) want to take care of themselves and they value the family aspect,” Young said.
He approached that challenge by working to prove to the community that the new owners understood what the community needs from them.
The Youngs are also involved in the community. They participate with schools, the local art center, the chamber of commerce, with fundraising events, local charity organizations, and lend a helping hand in a variety of other ways.
Young said they take pride in being able to support the community.
And though their community might have unique needs, many of the other challenges the pharmacy faces are common.
“It’s been kind of the same, I feel like, for five or 10 years,” Young said. “The biggest threat still is mail order. The insurance companies have continually tried to price us out to not offer contracts that can allow us to be sustainable, so that’s a constant fight.”
Young said they also face the challenge of shrinking reimbursements and the need to find new ways to turn a profit.
Recently the pharmacy rolled out vaccinations, but Young needs more space to do it better. He is looking into expanding to provide space for both pharmacy services and the gift shop. The gift shop already offers a wide selection of yarn, handmade soaps, candles and an expansive list of other gift items.
Young said he is exploring opportunities for other services he could provide and wants to work with the local clinic to see if there are gaps in services that need to be filled. This would be in areas of care like hypertension, cholesterol and diabetes.
“You have to be willing to reinvent yourself every decade or half decade,” Young said about surviving the changing industry.
Fortunately, the new owners, as was the case with the old ones, aren’t held back by rigid corporate structure.
“We’re able to offer customized services, we don’t have cookie cutter things that we can and can’t do,” Young said.
Young said he can take care of his people in the way that they want to be taken care of.
IPC has helped make that reality possible.
“They’ve (IPC) given us incredible buying power,” Young said.
Young said he can offer goods at prices that are competitive to those found at chains.
“Out on your own you just wouldn’t get that,” Young said.
Vashon offers its community makeup, toys, office supplies, games, kitchen items, OTC, vitamins and souvenirs.
“You name it we got it,” Young said. “Probably.”
He takes pride in carrying quality products that last and are desirable.
Young said he and his wife wear a lot of hats and every day is a unique challenge.
“And that’s the fun part,” Young said.