Call’s Community Pharmacy held a grand opening celebration in November 2019 to welcome neighbors and community members to their store in Snowflake, Arizona. IPC recently spoke with Jordan Call, pharmacy owner, about his store, how he got started in independent pharmacy and the challenges he faces.
How have things been going since the grand opening?
“Good, very good in fact. We’ve transferred over 700 transfers now and we’ve only officially been open for a little over a week. The town’s response has been really great.”
What is the history of the store and how did you get involved?
“I started as a pharmacy tech in 2005 and I’ve really seen the pharmacy career/profession change a lot. I got to the point where I disagreed fundamentally with how pharmacy was turning. It felt like more of a numbers game than a patient priority. All the cutting corners and cutting staff, I didn’t agree, and I had to do something about it.
In high school I took a pharmacy course which really peaked my interest. I moved out to Kansas City with my wife, and in 2010 I got into pharmacy school. I finished the program in 2015 and became a pharmacist; moved back to Arizona to work in Phoenix for a chain. On the way there I got a call about a job opening closer to home, in Show Low, AZ. It was a call back to home, so I took it.
I’ve been a pharmacy manager for many years, in Show Low I was working at a chain still. It started to get to the point where we were short staffed, and we were expected to deliver prescriptions in 53 seconds from when the customer gave it to us. I told my bosses that the conditions were unsafe, and I eventually began documenting things for my own safety. My lawyer and my doctor finally told me I needed to get a different job. I went to another chain, which seemed better at first but eventually the same problems came out. I tried to fight against corporate and help the people that were going to lose their jobs but eventually it was a losing battle and I started to realize I needed another change.
Once they said I had to fire half my employees, I put my house up for sale and decided to open my own pharmacy. That’s where I’m at now, I opened up my own pharmacy and the chains I worked for don’t even realize I’ve done it.”
"We wanted to do something that would give back to the local community and encourage them to support local business."
What is the most rewarding aspect of working in the independent pharmacy industry?
“It’s been a great way for me to connect with the town and give back to the community. We’ve started a charity called CARE (Communities of Arizona Reaching for Everyone). Through the charity I’m able to donate a portion of every prescription back to the school districts here locally to provide school supplies or anything else they need. We wanted to do something that would give back to the local community and encourage them to support local business.
Patients don’t want to feel like a number and that’s why they switch to coming here. I had one guy I was speaking with for over an hour, eventually he asked what our ‘niche’ was and how we were going to compete with the bigger chains. I told him ‘this right here, this interaction is something I couldn’t do at a bigger chain’ and now I can take the time to do a good job.
The chains are cutting back on technicians, cutting back on hours and putting so much pressure on the pharmacists. It’s not fair to the patients. Being able to focus on the customer and work in a slower paced environment is much more pleasant.
I’m a cancer survivor, I’ve been diagnosed with cancer twice in the last two years. I really have a different perspective after going through that. Money isn’t what matters, it’s family and community that matters. I think that opened up my eyes, having a near death experience. Ever since then I’m living my life to the fullest and giving back to the community I grew up in.”
"A lot of patients assume that because we’re small and independent the prices are going to be higher. Honestly, that can’t be further from the truth."
What are some of the challenges your pharmacy has faced?
“The biggest thing is some of the misconceptions. A lot of patients assume that because we’re small and independent the prices are going to be higher. Honestly, that can’t be further from the truth. In most cases our prices are cheaper than the chains. In one case a woman was paying $150 at a chain and it was $20 here. This actually happened at our grand opening event and everyone in the room gasped, it was an eye opener for many customers. Our prices are lower because we don’t have to worry about executives etc.”
How has IPC assisted your pharmacy?
“We’ve been very happy with our IPC relationship so far. You are the guys in the background that make a big difference. We can show people that we aren’t just one store, we have the power of 5,000 stores. I’m a firm believer in what IPC stands for. The more mom and pop shops that stick together in this everchanging climate, the better. Independents have to stick together and prove to patients why we are more valuable than chain corporations.
I want to be a part of a place where I love my profession and don’t hate my job. I want to be proud of my job and proud of what I do. When the chains tie your hands and decide everything for you, that changes everything.”
What other services or features would you like to highlight about your store?
“We have script synch where we can synch things up. We’re equipped with multi-dose packing, we can put daily doses into packets and it’s all linked to their monthly scripts which arrive in a box with a pack for each day. We can mail out prescriptions and we offer free delivery in town. We also do compounding. There are many things we can do that the big corporations can’t.
Another thing people don’t realize is that the other pharmacists (at chains) are overworked and exhausted. I have a framed ‘pharmacist oath’ which reminds me everyday of the integrity and the importance of the profession I took on. It’s hung in our lobby by my degree, and next to an Arizona cutout to show our love for Arizona. I want our patients to know as well. I don’t want people to think of us as just counting pills, I want them to think of us as problem solvers who can help them get the right medication at the right price.”