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Posts Tagged ‘Ernie’s London Apothecary’

Answering Questions for the Student Chapter of NCPA at OSU.

On Monday, October 18, Joe and I attended The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy’s Student Chapter of NCPA (National Community Pharmacists Association) lunchtime meeting. Joe spoke to the group of attending pharmacy students about the importance of independent pharmacies and the role NCPA plays in helping students and independents. I was just mainly there for moral support for Joe. Our fourth year pharmacy student, Matt Byrdy, who is doing his rotation with us this month, also kindly attended.

Our other pharmacy student, Evelyne Ntam, is the president of the student chapter of NCPA and had invited Joe to speak to her fellow students. Evelyne gave Joe a list of questions that she wanted him to answer during his talk, but he ran out of time and instead informed them that he would answer them via the blog (which means that I am now taking his answers and making them sound very, very intelligent!).

Please remember that as you are reading the answers to these questions that this is Joe replying.

Why did I choose pharmacy? When I was in high school, I worked for Wal-Mart in Urbana, Ohio as a stockman. I was in charge of signage for the entire store, plus I was always building items or retrieving things from top shelves for people. Because of these job requirements, I quite often toted around a 16 foot ladder. This ladder really required two people to carry it, but usually I was the one weaving it through the aisles by myself. Because of my constant handling of the ladder, I developed a lot of blisters on my hands that eventually turned into calluses. I had rough, working hands.

When I was maneuvering the ladder around the store, I often passed by the pharmacy. The pharmacist, Bob, was always sitting on a little stool smoking a cigarette (completely unacceptable today, but okay in the late 80’s) and listening to the stock report on his AM radio. One day, as I passed by, Bob stopped me to have me carry something for him. I was a Junior in high school at that time and trying to decide what I wanted to do when I got to college. I began asking Bob if he thought I could be a pharmacist. He told me that I just had to be good at math and science and if I worked hard enough I could make enough money to buy a Maserati.

I didn’t know what a Maserati was until later when I looked it up in a book in our school library (this was before the days of the internet–hard to imagine there was ever a time, but it did exist) and discovered that, yes, I would like an expensive Italian sports car like Joe Walsh sang about. What I noticed at the time, however, when I was talking to Bob, were his baby soft, pink hands–completely un-callused and velvety smooth. I decided that I wanted a job where I could have hands like Bob’s.

Why did I choose OSU? While many of the students who come to OSU come from many, many miles away, I did not have that option. I had to choose the school closest to me, because I was going to commute from home, and I had to choose the one that was the most cost effective, because I was going to pay for it myself. I checked into Cincinnati and Ohio Northern, but they were too expensive and too far away. I could not afford to live on campus. Plus, once I found out that OSU’s College of Pharmacy was ranked fifth in the nation, I was very happy OSU had been closest and cheapest.

When and why did I choose to become an independent pharmacy owner? As I was approaching graduation from pharmacy school, I was called for jury duty. Jury duty for Madison County, where I lived, was held in the county seat of London, Ohio. While I was on my lunch from jury duty, I happened to walk by The Medicine Shoppe and stopped in. That was when I met pharmacist Ernie Sparks and fell in love with independent pharmacy. Ernie’s store was so busy and the customers all seemed to love and respect Ernie. That was a new aspect that I had never seen. In many of the chains I had worked for, the customers took out all their anger on the pharmacists and didn’t seem to like or respect them. I heard people calling Ernie “Doc” and asking him for advise on everything from medical problems to car problems. This felt like a huge family and I liked it.

While I was in the store, I asked Ernie if I could do a rotation with him. He told me that if I filled out all the paperwork and got things set up for him to be a preceptor, he’d love to have me. And that began my love of independents. It was such an exciting environment and Ernie controlled every aspect of that environment.

Is it recommended to work for someone before buying a store? I would definitely recommend either working for an independent pharmacy or doing several rotations at independent pharmacies before making the decision to be a pharmacy owner. By getting work experience in an independent, you will be more ready to face the unique challenges of this career.

What challenges do I face as an independent pharmacy owner? One of the biggest challenges is unfair competition with chain stores and insurance companies. For example, I will fill a prescription for one of our patients. Within a few days, they get a letter in the mail or a personal phone call from their insurance company telling them they should get their prescriptions filled at XYZ pharmacy which is owned by the insurance company. The patient doesn’t know this. They think that somehow I have given this information out to another pharmacy and violated their privacy. Or they are told if they go to the other pharmacy, it will be cheaper. Sometimes, they get letters saying that the only pharmacy that takes their insurance is this other place, even though I obviously do.

If it came down to just beating the chains and mail order through service, we would win every time. We know our customers by name. We deliver to their door. We buy our groceries and other things locally. We support the schools and give to charitable organizations that work within Plain City and the surrounding areas. We are active in our community. But we have to compete with mail order and chains that use unfair practices and don’t care a bit about the Plain City community.

How did I choose our current location? Robin and I chose Plain City, because we lived here and there had not been a pharmacy in the town for over seven years.

What is my best advice for students interested in becoming an independent pharmacy owner? My advice for students would be for them to join NCPA and attend meetings, conferences, and take advantage of other opportunities provided by the organization. NCPA offers a super way to network with people involved in independent pharmacy. I would also advise getting an independent pharmacy mentor, someone who owns their own store and can show you the ropes. Ernie Sparks of Ernie’s London Apothecary (formerly The Medicine Shoppe) in London, Ohio was my mentor. I still call him when I have questions or face challenges.

Additionally, NCPA offers a pharmacy “Ownership Workshop” that I would recommend attending. Robin and I went to one of these workshops in 1997 in Memphis, TN right before we opened Plain City Druggist in 1999. This workshop gave me the confidence I needed to open our pharmacy.

Where do I see the future of independent pharmacy going? I think the future of independent pharmacy is very promising. There are going to be a lot of stores changing hands in the next few years as older pharmacists retire and need to pass their pharmacies on to the next generation. Believe me, those pharmacists do not want CVS or Wal-Green’s buying their stores. They want you, the future pharmacists, to buy them and continue on their tradition of serving their community.

If you have any further questions about independent pharmacy, please feel free to email Joe at pcdruggist@earthlink.net

Buy a Raffle Ticket to Win a Mini Cooper S and Help Black and Orange Cat Foundation!

Ernie Sparks, who owns Ernie’s London Apothecary in London, Ohio, donated his son’s 2003 Mini Cooper S to Black and Orange Cat Foundation. As many of you know, Black and Orange Cat Foundation is a local charitable organization that focuses on spaying and neutering stray and feral cats to reduce the feline overpopulation problem in the area.

The Mini Cooper S is the sport version of the Mini (it has a clutch with six gears and the speedometer goes to over 150). The car has around 130,000 miles on it now and has a retail book value of over $12,000.

Black and Orange Cat Foundation is going to raffle the Mini off and they now have raffle tickets available. One ticket is $50. The group is selling a minimum of 200 tickets. The drawing for the Mini will be held on December 15 as long as 200 tickets have been sold. Any tickets over the 200 will just give B and O more money to spay and neuter more kitties. 

With the $50 for the raffle ticket, Black and Orange Cat Foundation can spay approximately one female cat or neuter two male cats. From 2006 to 2009, B and O has sterilized 2,320 cats (so far in 2010, they have spayed and neutered between 250-300 cats). 

The rules for the raffle are this:

You must be 18 or older to enter.

You do not need to be present to win– B and O will call you or email you if you are the winner. Don’t worry, they will get hold of you somehow.

The winner is responsible for any taxes or fees associated with the transfer of the title. The winner is also responsible for arranging pick up of the car (although, if you ask, I am sure Black and Orange will figure out a way to meet part way with the car if you live outside of the central Ohio area).

The car is sold “as is.”

There is no limit on how many tickets one person can buy. 

You can purchase a raffle ticket by stopping in to Plain City Druggist.

If you don’t live near Plain City, you can also purchase tickets by mailing a check or money order made out to Black and Orange Cat Foundation to P. O. Box 126, Plain City, Ohio 43064. Please indicate on the check or in a note how many tickets you want. The raffle ticket will then be filled out with your information (please make sure you include your phone number or email address so the group will be able to reach you if you win) and the half of the ticket that you must keep until the drawing will be mailed back to you.

Again the drawing will be held on December 15 if 200 tickets have been sold by that time. By selling 200 tickets, Black and Orange Cat Foundation will raise $10,000 to help area cats. 

I want to thank Ernie Sparks for helping Black and Orange Cat Foundation and the kitties with this super donation, which will give B and O the opportunity to “sterilize a carload of kitties” with the proceeds from the raffle tickets.

We’re So Popular, Pharmacists From Other Independent Drugstores Use Us!

 Yes, that’s pharmacist Ernie Sparks from Ernie’s London Apothecary (formerly The Medicine Shoppe) in London, Ohio in our pick up/drop off window line. We are so good that pharmacists from around the county come to us!

That’s right! Plain City Druggist is not only your favorite drugstore, it’s also the hang out for biker druggist, Ernie Sparks. You would think that since he owns his own independent drugstore in London that he’d just get his medicine filled there and not drive all the way to Plain City. But here he is in line at our pick up window. 

It must be all those smiles inside Plain City Druggist bringing Ernie to us, because he can get the same drugs at home!