Owner of Brewerton Pharmacy recalls buying his pharmacy in 1976 for $60,000, working from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. with no vacation time
By Steve Yablonski
Q: How did you come to be involved in this type of business? My wife, Nancy, and I both graduated from the Albany College of Pharmacy in 1965. We moved to Syracuse and completed our internship at two area hospitals. I then took a job in a community pharmacy in Central Square called Harold’s Pharmacy. Nancy stayed at home to raise our first child.
After nine years and one more child, I had to take a job at a chain drug store because of a sale of the business. This experience at a chain drug store turned out to be the worst year of my life. I hated it. I wanted to get back to community pharmacy.
Q: What was your wife doing at this time? Nancy had started working part-time at Brewerton Pharmacy, owned by Larry Wood. I asked her to see if Larry was ready to retire. Turns out he was and we made a deal!
Q: How much did it cost to get started? We had to buy the building and the inventory. As I remember, the whole thing was about $60,000 back then. We had some money saved, borrowed from family and got a mortgage on the building. It doesn’t sound like much, but this was in 1976.
Q: How hard was it to get the business on its feet? Together, we worked all those hours from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day sharing the responsibility of working the store and caring for the kids. I don’t think that we took a day or an evening off for the first five years.
Q: Who has helped grow your business? We learned as we grew. Our children all worked in the pharmacy when they were growing up and now some of our grandchildren. Most of all, our faithful staff. Many of them started as high school students, then came back to be technicians or bookkeepers.
Q: Was business good in the early years? Yes. Our business grew and in 1980 we bought the property on the next block and built the pharmacy that we now occupy.
Q: How did that work for you? Our new larger building allowed us to add more inventory and services. We added a gift shop and expanded our offering of home healthcare items such as walkers, wheelchairs and lift chairs as well as smaller support goods like braces, crutches and splints.
Q: When did you expand into Central Square? In 1989, our daughter, Lorie, was just graduating from pharmacy school and we got a chance to purchase Harold’s Pharmacy in Central Square. We jumped at the chance and renamed the store Village Pharmacy. About that same time we expanded our footprint to our building in Brewerton to include a medical office and a hair salon.
Q: Is your daughter still a part of the business? Yes. In 2005, we sent Lorie to compounding school in Texas to learn about specialty compounding. We built a lab in our Brewerton store and can now offer compounds used for topical pain management, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy and veterinary compounds for small animals.
Q: What are some changes you’ve seen in the profession since the 1970s? Over the years, pharmacy has changed a lot. Back in the day, we were always given a fair reimbursement for our services. Today, the insurance companies try to squeeze every last nickel of profit from us, making it a challenge to pay our bills.
Q: What other services do you offer? We are able to offer additional services to our customers. Our pharmacists are all trained to offer vaccinations for COVID, flu, shingles and many other diseases.
Q: How many employees do you have? When we started in 1976 we had two employees other than ourselves. Today, we employ almost 30, including eight pharmacists, six pharmacy technicians, two bookkeepers and two store managers. Many of them have been with us for more than 20 years, some for more than 30 years. They are our family and we care deeply for them.
Q: What is your business philosophy? Our philosophy is to treat every customer as if they were our only customer.
Q: What’s the best part of your job? The best part of our business is being able to help people when they need it and to develop a friendship in doing so.
Q: Where are your stores located? Brewerton Pharmacy is located in Brewerton; the Village Pharmacy in Central Square.
Q: Any thoughts of slowing down, maybe even retiring? I don’t spend as much time at work as I used to. Nancy and I would like to travel more, but the pandemic has brought that to a screeching halt. Maybe soon.
Featured image: Nick Chervinsky and his wife, Nancy. They both graduated from the Albany College of Pharmacy in 1965.