Drugstores were already recognized for their soda springs, with clients experiencing a cherry coke or root beer while they paused, catching up with friends, reading the newspapers, or yet taking a breather from their lifetime.
While you cannot view them that much today, there are, however, some drugstores that combine an extraordinary coffee shop or small establishment to their business model, invoking reminiscences of that simpler time fainted forever. Not only serve food and drink oblations, please people, they often give them a goal to return and become regular clients of the pharmacy.
The pharmacy began offering free water and 5 cent beverages like tea or coffee to commuters on their way to Mount Rushmore, and extremely soon. The shop added a souvenir store and restaurant over time. Moreover, the shop expanded to more than 76,000 square feet and added other entertainings such as an art gallery, a mall, and a special park for the children.
Currently, under the control of their grandson Rick Hustead, more than two million guests come into the city to observe the well-known drugstore, take a bite to eat, and drink a cup of coffee—still for a song.
It’s a business model that has been replicated by many chemistries over the years.
A Tasty Treat
Tim’s Pharmacy in Yelm, WA, celebrated its 100th anniversary this summer. For most of that century, it’s given some snacks. The latest offering is a combination coffee shop and ice cream parlor called Holy Grounds, which opened in March of 2011.
The pharmacy is now owned by the Quinby family, who bought the operation last November. One of the main draws of the business was the Holy Grounds parlor.
“Lots of customers experience sentimentality. They retain a time when their local drugstore had a soda fountain and ice cream, and that assists in bringing people in,” says Will Quinby, pharmacologist, and co-owner of Tim’s Pharmacy. “For some of our younger customers, they enjoy the idea of a classic pharmacy with a soda fountain. We also make a point to serve high-quality coffee and ice-cream at a good price.”
The Quinby family sees the coffee shop as a “service asset” and look for possibilities to serve their clients in unique ways that the other drugstores are unable to match. For example, it offers made-to-order lattes and coffee, ice cream, milkshakes, and a limited number of food items such as pre-made sandwiches, pretzels, and cookies.
“We have many clients who enjoy the uniqueness of Holy Grounds,” Quinby says. “We offer higher-end coffee and ice cream, so our customers know they are receiving high-quality at a good value.”
One of the puzzles to the progress, he shares, is that it’s important to have representatives who recognize their role in the coffee shop.
“They must be friendly and convenient. It is necessary for having coffee employees with outgoing personalities that can help recognize service opportunities,” Quinby says. “It is also advantageous to find ways to keep those coffee workers busy throughout the day doing other tasks, but visibly ‘available’ to serve clients in the coffee shop.”
Even though people seldom come in for ice cream and coffee, Tim’s Pharmacy is a drugstore first, and that’s the industry’ mantra.
“In everything that we do, the staff must recognize that the purpose of the coffee shop is to drive business to the pharmacy and serve those customers first and foremost,” Quinby says. “The coffee service is a perk; having workers that understand and appreciate its role within the pharmacy can be a challenge.”
Another difficulty, according to Quinby, is some of the administrative aspects of operating a food service, which is unique and outside the conventional realm of a pharmacologist.
While My Pharmacy started in Hillview, KY, in 2016, owner and pharmacy director Rebecca Hernandez chose to offer coffee and tea to her clients while they waited for their prescriptions to be filled.
“It doesn’t need too much space, and we already lease the entire store, so I wanted to put the space to use the best that I could and make money,” Hernandez says. “There’s a great family story a few doors down from us, so a lot of clients come in here to wait and grab a cup of coffee.”
The drugstore has a full menu of offerings, including Bora organic coffee, espresso, hot chocolate, iced coffee, lattes, and more.
“Everyone who works here—my engineers and myself—chips in to help serve, so I didn’t need to hire anyone else,” Hernandez says. “Everyone loves it, and I think it keeps us on the mind of people when they need a drugstore to go to.”
New to the Game
Ann Deaton Redding opened Crossroads Pharmacy in Smiths Station, AL, in March of 2018, bringing a brand-new type of pharmacy to the area.
“I’ve practiced for 29 years, and I’ve forever been a chain druggist, but I was tired of treating people like a number, and I wanted to see people as they are,” she says.
“My husband and I determined I needed to start my drugstore, and while we were coming up with a business plan, we decided to offer some food element in front to help bring people through the doors.”
Initially, Redding admitted having some establishment, but that seemed to require a little too much responsibility, so she reduced the idea down to a coffee bar. In her mind, the coffee bar to people in 2019 is akin to the soda fountains of 50 and 60 years ago and helps her overall marketing.