February 2021

Jayhawk Pharmacy
Lawrence, KS

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A New Generation Representing Independent Pharmacy

Erick Axcell of Jayhawk Pharmacy is a second-generation pharmacist and the youngest independent owner in his city. A short time ago he was selected to be on the Board of Pharmacy for the state of Kansas and he also recently opened a new pharmacy location. His new store is located in the local hospital where he has been able to build relationships with the hospital staff. Though ideally located, the pharmacy is not immune to the challenges of COVID-19.

Every pharmacist is a representative for the profession in their own way, Erick Axcell of Jayhawk Pharmacy also happens to be on the Board of Pharmacy for the state of Kansas.

Axcell has been on the board since May and was one of two new members. He was contacted about the position shortly after he was featured in a New York Times story.

“I did an interview in the New York Times at the beginning of this pandemic about people born in the 1980s about what your life is like, if it ended up the way you wanted it to and comparing it to your parents,” Axcell said.

According to Axcell, he believes the governor’s office saw the article within a day or two of it coming out, which resulted in them giving covidAxcell a call.

“It worked out in a cool way,” Axcell said. “It’s interesting learning all about it and being a part of making decisions.”

Axcell comes to the board as a member of the younger generation of independent pharmacists. He went to pharmacy school in 2006 and started taking over the family business in 2012.

“My dad started it about three months before I was born, he and my mom are still a part of it,” Axcell said. “My dad was the pharmacist and my mom was the manager of the pharmacy.”

Though it wasn’t what he stated doing with his life after college, Axcell knew what he was getting into when he made the jump back into pharmacy. As a teenager he did deliveries and was regularly exposed to the pharmacy environment.

Axcell said he also likes the opportunity to be his own boss and work in a smaller community.

“It kind of makes you learn and grow and challenges you in a way that is refreshing.”

Growing up, his Mom also owned a children’s clothing store. He was always around small business and the entrepreneurship that runs in the family.

“It kind of makes you learn and grow and challenges you in a way that is refreshing,” Axcell said about the small business pharmacy environment.

Axcell expanded that business earlier this year when he was selected to open a second location in September at a local out-patient hospital in Lawrence.

“A couple years ago they (the hospital) interviewed everybody that was interested to put a pharmacy in,” Axcell said.

There were four other independents in the area who were contacted about the opportunity.

“Until this year I was by far the youngest, the whole generation of the other pharmacists are my dad’s age.”

Axcell was chosen out of all them, but it was ultimately not an ideal time to open as COVID-19 made for slow growing. Ultimately though, it is a good location and he has easy access to connections in the hospital.

“It’s in a new and growing part of town out in the west part of Lawrence,” Axcell said.

Axcell credits some of his success to his youth and potential longevity.

“Until this year I was by far the youngest, the whole generation of the other pharmacists are my dad’s age,” Axcell said. “I think we got the second location because we are going to be able to be here for a long-term partnership with the hospital.”

Axcell said he pushes for new and innovative ways to try and help his customers. This includes more digital things like apps and other ways to reach customers and be nimbler on the whole.

And though he isn’t looking for additional expansion, he has considered it, specifically in the downtown area of Lawrence. He considers the area a pharmacy desert as there isn’t anyone servicing that part of town.

“It’s going to be difficult to open a new pharmacy with insurance and inspections … It’s a lot of work, it’s not for the faint of heart for sure,” Axcell said about the opportunity.

This is especially true with how COVID-19 has impacted the pharmacy industry. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, Axcell, like many pharmacists, has been able to adapt to the times and adjust his services.

“We always did free delivery in town and it’s obviously picked up,” Axcell said. “You’ve got to cater to everyone’s fears and anxieties.”

In the long term Axcell is positive about the outlook for the hospital location and his business in general as he looks to the end of the pandemic.