Smoke and Mirrors: What Everyone Should Demand of their Pharmacy Regardless of Size

Recently one of the major pharmacy chains made a “revolutionary” decision to pull tobacco off its shelves. The suggestion was that they valued the health of their customers more than their bottom line.

Local pharmacies mirror the community. Their offerings should be consistent with promoting healthy lifestyles. At Baldwin Woods Pharmacy, we have never had to pull tobacco off of our shelves, because in our 34-year history of being in business we have never sold tobacco products. We are a locally-owned, professional pharmacy that focuses on selling medications and products that enhance health initiatives.

It is this very discussion that illuminates why hometown pharmacies still make sense despite growing corporate competition and drug company direct mail order refill agencies. Let’s explore some other reasons why many of your neighbors remain committed to local, family-owned businesses like Baldwin Woods Pharmacy and what every consumer should expect from their pharmacy regardless of size.

Convenience Counts.

On websites like, you can view pages and pages of customer complaints about long pharmacy wait times at “big box” stores like WalMart. And for seniors or parents with children, navigating big parking lots and aisles of overstuffed product offerings not related to health and wellness just adds to the frustration of what should in theory be a straightforward errand.

Most people would prefer not to have to take medicines. Even with good insurance plans, prescriptions cut into almost every American family budget. That this chore can quickly become a time zapper adds insult to injury and therefore often necessitates consumers to look for more convenient options.

Comparable prices to the “other guys”. Really.

At the end of the day, people want to pay as little as possible for their prescriptions. Are large pharmacy businesses always less expensive? For most medications, especially generic offerings, that is simply not the case. Independent pharmacy models have gotten smarter. Local stores in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure and make more efficient use of public services relative to big box stores and strip shopping malls. Because business decisions are made on a local level, practical business tools, such as lower material costs, labor and overhead, allows independent pharmacies to offer customers the same or lower pricing on their prescriptions more and more often.

You know where your medication is coming from – with no hidden fees.

The same movement that is having more consumers ask where their food comes from now also includes medicine. Do you know from where mail-order outlets ship their medications? Every outlet can be different and far-reaching. It is important that you research any hidden costs (aka the fine print) with mail-order options, especially with some medical plans.

Locally-owned pharmacies are better equipped to manage its supply chain and therefore offer a more transparent transaction and product quality assurance. They do not have to abide by a complicated corporate procedure manual. Owners have the autonomy to take a step back, let common sense rule, apply professional discretion and better assist the specific needs of the customer across the counter.

When you’re one in a billion…and that is not a good thing.

Published reports suggest that CVS fills over 1.5 billion prescriptions a year. In addition, research indicates that most retail pharmacies cannot safely fill more than 250 prescriptions in an eight-hour day.

Do either of these statistics scare you? They should. According to the Rochester Epidemiology Project, more than half of Americans take two prescription medications, and 20 percent of Americans are on at least five prescription medications. And that does not include over-the-counter medicines that many people also take everyday. That leaves a lot of room for mistakes.

Building a relationship with your pharmacist is one of the key benefits of using a local pharmacy. Brett Barker, a pharmacist at NuCara Pharmacy in Nevada, Iowa, says his personal relationships with patients help him catch dosing errors and recommend low-cost generics over expensive drugs whenever possible.

“When I arrive at Baldwin Woods Pharmacy, their staff greets me by name. In a town of 6,000, where this pharmacy has stood for over 30 years, he usually also knows everyone’s parents, their children, and their medications. You can’t put a price on that.”

–Steve Smith

How has David held off Goliath?

In smaller communities this appears to be the case. Independent pharmacies have held their own over the past decade, after many were driven out of business when big-box and chain retail pharmacies proliferated in the 1980s. About half of independent pharmacies are located in cities with populations of 20,000 or fewer.


“One-quarter of the 750 million prescriptions we managed in 2011 went through independent pharmacies,” says Express Scripts’ spokesman Brian Henry. “We understand that they provide critical care in certain rural communities, and we are accelerating what we can do to help them.”

It really comes down to personal service.

“My customers know me and know that we are involved in the community in many ways outside of the pharmacy ,” says Danny McNeill. “We don’t have a large corporation mandating the number of prescriptions we fill per hour so we have time to talk, listen, and advise. We are truly interested in what you have to say and might even be able to help someone else by the information you have shared.”

The Think Local Movement Lives Here.

In a seemingly “one size fits all” world, communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character will maintain an economic advantage. Locally owned businesses build strong communities by sustaining vibrant town centers, linking neighbors in a web of economic and social relationships, and contributing to local causes. Compared to chain stores, locally owned businesses recycle a much larger share of their revenue back into the local economy, enriching the whole community. They create more jobs locally and, in some sectors, provide better wages and benefits than chains do. That’s why it is always good to #KeepItColumbus.

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