Committed to Community Involvement
Lenny Fitzgerald has been an independent pharmacy owner for 25 years and has owned Lenny’s Richfield Family Pharmacy for eight. With a population of 8,000, Richfield is nestled in the heart of Central Utah about two and a half hours south of Salt Lake City. It is the largest city for over 100 miles and home to only five pharmacies. Lenny’s pharmacy is the only independent. We recently spoke with Lenny about the COVID-19 pandemic, his store’s efforts to help, and the vital role community commitment plays in the success of an independent pharmacy.
One of the biggest challenges Lenny’s Richfield Family Pharmacy faces is setting itself apart from four competing chain pharmacies.
“You get a large chain in a town like this and the small-town pharmacies can really suffer, it takes an active effort to stay in business,” Lenny said.
Lenny and his staff meet this challenge day in and day out through excellent customer service and consistent community involvement.
“Any pharmacy can fill prescriptions, but not every pharmacy is part of the community,” Lenny said. “We need to stand above the rest, as independents. We need to treat people better and be better at serving the community.”
This commitment to service was on full display in June, when Lenny’s pharmacy participated in a donation effort for the Navajo Nation, a community hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since many in this community live without television or even electricity, the Navajo Nation’s simpler way of life means its people are less informed on the severity of COVID-19.
In addition to collecting donations from the public, Lenny donated items directly from the pharmacy to the Navajo Nation. Lenny and his staff assembled COVID-19 care packages that included hand sanitizer, masks, gloves, alcohol and Lysol wipes, soaps, and washcloths. Altogether, about 50 different store items were donated.
“Because they’re such close neighbors, we hear about the troubles they’re having and how bad COVID-19 has been over there,” Lenny said. “I knew I was in a position where I could help.”
“We’ve given away a lot to EMTs, first responders, and to the local police department.”
Lenny’s coronavirus-related outreach efforts have extended beyond the Navajo Nation. Early in the pandemic, he was seeing a need for toilet paper and hand sanitizer in the immediate community. Lenny and some staff members visited every liquor store within a 100-mile radius and bought mass amounts of Everclear to make their own hand sanitizer.
This pharmacy-produced hand sanitizer was packaged in one-ounce bottles and sold at cost or given away. The pharmacy’s goal was to get hand sanitizer into as many households as possible, so it turned away businesses who wanted to buy large quantities.
“We’ve given away a lot to EMTs, first responders, and to the local police department,” Lenny said. “We wanted to help keep them safe.”
The pharmacy has also given away thermometers to customers who can’t afford them, despite Lenny having to pay triple the price to due to high demand.
“We’ve had a lot of fun with it and our patients have a lot of fun with it too.”
This sort of generosity comes as no surprise to Lenny’s longtime customers; unique gestures of goodwill are part of the store’s DNA. For the past two years, Lenny has rented a local three-screen theater for a full day to administer flu vaccines for his customers. Patients are treated to free drinks and popcorn along with a new release of their choice. Lenny says it’s definitely worth the $1000 reservation fee and plans to do it again this year, pandemic permitting.
“We’ve had a lot of fun with it and our patients have a lot of fun with it too,” Lenny said.
Lenny’s team also uses social media to further the pharmacy’s creative approach to community outreach. On anniversaries, the store holds a drawing for a TV-DVD combo for customers who “like” its Facebook page. This contest has been held five times, which has helped grow his store’s Facebook followers to more than 660.
“We worked hard to get those followers,” Lenny laughed.
Some of these same followers have likely enjoyed “Weiner Wednesdays” in the warmer months, another olive branch Lenny extends to his customers. Lenny and his staff offer free hot dogs and drinks to customers, then give away the barbecue grill at the end of the day.
While Lenny would love to continue the tradition this year, COVID-19 means “Weiner Wednesdays” won’t happen anytime soon. Lenny strongly believes wearing a mask is the answer to getting the pandemic under control. He also feels a pharmacy need to lead the charge.
“We need to do a better job as a pharmacy nation to get people to wear their face masks,” Lenny said. “We’re seeing cities all over that are fighting that and we need to be front-runners in encouraging face masks. Let’s be the first responders we’re supposed to be and get our patients educated.”
Considering Lenny’s proven track record of community involvement, you can bet his Richfield pharmacy will have success in this important public health endeavor.