Magazine article Drug Topics

Back to the Future

Magazine article Drug Topics

Back to the Future

Article excerpt

Many independent pharmacist are tapping into the nostalgic mood of the nineties that finds Americans longing for a time when a trip to the drugstore meant good medicine, good advice from "Doc," and a treat at the soda fountain.

Foss Drug is an outstanding example of an independent pharmacy that's revisiting the general store concept with a touch of panache. After undergoing a remodeling this year, the Golden, Colo., store has become something of a tourist attraction. Newcomers are lured with circulars proclaiming "Since 1913, Foss General Store: Where the West shops." Foss' new "old" look boosted business 10% in the first three months.

"I've always been interested in Golden's history," said Bob Lowry, pharmacist/president of the company owned by F.A. "Heine" Foss, also an R.Ph. "Because Foss Drug has always been known as the town's general store, it was natural to tie in the history with the decor. I want our store to be a fun place to shop."

The 50,000-sq. ft. general store has wall murals inside and out depicting scenes of the rip-roarin' Wild West. The frontier theme is carried out with artifacts decorating various departments. An upstairs restaurant completes the tableau, with home-style cooking served up at the soda fountain.

As part of a main street revival project, Lowry took design elements from old photos of the town in 1913 and gave them a 1990s twist. The store interior has an emporium look with new signage in eight colors, while the building itself is painted in five other lively hues, echoing the Victorian style.

Lowry is still in the process of transforming the pharmacy into an apothecary. He's also busy designing a way to go one up on Wal-Mart's greeters...a 5-ft. model of a talking buffalo with eyes that roll. and ears that wiggle.

Even older than Foss Drug, Burnham McKinney #1, in Moss Point, Miss., recently celebrated its 90th birthday. The husband-and-wife team of John and Wendy McKinney, co-owners and pharmacists, advertised the celebration in the local newspaper. Other vendors added to the promotion by running ads wishing the shop a happy birthday.

This store, like Foss, boasts a soda fountain that's a big draw with locals around lunchtime. But the store's main attraction is its unique gift department. About a third of the 5,000-sq. ft. outlet is devoted to "giftables," such as china, crystal, hand-blown glass, lotions and bath products, and paintings. The department is showcased by special display including ladders, flowers, greenery, and mirrors to enhance the crystal's sparkle.

"After prescriptions, gifts are second in sales volume here," said John McKinney. The young couple bought two stores two years ago because both shops boasted outstanding gift departments. "We liked the fact that they were so diversified," he said. Wendy Mc-Kinney and Annette Hester, an employee, go on shopping sprees twice a year to stock the gift departments.

The McKinneys are also innovators in other ways. After purchasing the two stores, they began a tradition of serving refreshments at Sunday open houses. The socials give them a chance to get to know their clientele and vice versa.

If nostalgic soda fountains are merchandising innovations, then other fountain owners will have to keep up with the Joneses...that's Terry Jones and his wife, Tweedi, of Sanger, Texas. They've turned their Sanger Drug Store into a real customer-grabber by displaying personalized mugs for regular customers. Other patrons, getting into the spirit, have added their own mugs to the display.

"We wanted to see our customers when they weren't ill or feeling bad," said Terry Jones. …

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