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Independent Pharmacy Thrives with Personal Service

  • Deborah Block

One hundred years ago, Morgan Pharmacy opened its doors in Washington. Despite economic ups and downs, the small, family-owned pharmacy has thrived. But how is it staying in business today with a larger drugstore just down the street?

Morgan Pharmacy has an old fashioned feel, with this display of old prescription bottles and the original shelves from when the store opened 1912. Pharmacist Barry Deutschman bought the store 20 years ago. "During the time period between then, and the time we stopped carrying tobacco, you can see people would rest their cigarettes on counter here," he said.

The pharmacy is located in a residential neighborhood of Washington and most people hear about it word of mouth.

"Once somebody comes in here who's never been here they love the place," said Deutschman. "And they want to come back."

Sandra Sugar has been coming to Morgan's for years. "This has nostalgia just coming in here," she said.

Toni Stephens feels a special bond. "The people who work here are helpful and more like family," he stated.

Some customers enjoy the new products in old fashioned packaging.

Others, Deutshman says, like items that are old fashioned. "Grandpa's Pine Tar Soap," he displayed.

After prescriptions, chocolate is the big seller.

"People who take medicine occasionally need a treat," Deutschman stated. "And they really want good candy."

The number of independent pharmacies has been dwindling. The National Community Pharmacists Association says about 20,000 exist today -- down by half from 20 years ago. They are being replaced by drug and supermarket chains, which often open up in the same neighborhood, and offer a wider selection of items.

But Abby Griffin says the chain stores are impersonal, so she comes to Morgan's. "It's the friendliness, and you feel you trust the pharmacist," she said. "And you trust their advice."

Independents like Morgan Pharmacy often provide services the chain stores don't, such as compounding certain drugs and creams by hand and delivering prescriptions. Detschman says the pharmacists also take the time to talk with customers and get to know them.

"So it's more than just being the neighborhood pharmacist, it's being part of the community," Deutschman explained. "You don't get treated like this in chain drug stores."

Despite the competition, Deutshman hopes Morgan Pharmacy will be around for a long time. "I have the most wonderful clientele in the world. I have no plans on retiring. Our plan is to hang in there as long as we can," he said.