Thursday, October 23, 2003
There's probably a hundred reasons why a mom-and-pop pharmacy could never compete against a town full of chain pharmacies.
But Bob Brashear isn't really concerned about that. In fact, he never has been - not even when the general pharmacy he worked for closed its doors almost two years ago and left him jobless for several months.
Maybe Fedco Discount Drugs - where Brashear worked as general manager - didn't survive, but that didn't mean there wasn't a place for a hometown pharmacy in Inverness.
With that in mind, Brashear, went to work - not for another company, but for himself.
Within weeks, Brashear began making plans to open his own pharmacy in the same building that is also home to his other business, Brashear's Vital Care Home Infusion Pharmacy.
While the building was small, the parking spaces were limited - seven to be exact - and the pharmacy manager had few customers and limited income, he pressed on.
It's not that Brashear was overconfident or a particularly savvy businessman. He admits he doesn't even pay attention to the books to this day. He lets his wife Dianne Brashear handle that.
Brashear said he had something more powerful on his side, even more powerful than his wife - help from God.
And as Brashear prepared to open the store that had every reason to fail, it never did.
"I thought I was really taking a chance coming in here," he said. "There are other nice pharmacies in town. Most people had transferred their prescriptions to other pharmacies. We hardly had any space. Why would people want to come here?"
Brashear may not have been sure why they came, but they did.
Customers who once purchased their prescriptions at Fedco came asking when Brashear's pharmacy would open. Fedco employees passed on other job offers and went unemployed for weeks to work for Brashear when his pharmacy opened. Those who took other jobs eventually returned to Brashear and asked him to give them jobs, too. And even four members of Brashear's family - his wife, mother-in-law, brother-in-law and youngest son - work at the pharmacy that Brashear had doubts would survive.
Two years later, the pharmacy has as many customers as Fedco Discount Drugs did, he said. Now Brashear is constructing a new store to accommodate his growing customer base.
"When I decided it wasn't my choice to work for someone else, that's where God stepped in and had his own plan for me to go it alone," he said. "This is the God show. No money, no business, no parking and not a big building, and He encouraged the people to come anyway. I'm glad we're successful, but it's not been me."
While God may be a big part of Brashear's success, his business tactics certainly haven't hurt the pharmacy.
In many ways, his pharmacy is like any other chain pharmacy. But then there are special touches that set his apart from the rest.
He may not have many parking spaces for his customers, but the seven he does have are always reserved for them. Brashear and his 15 employees park down the street at the First Baptist Church on Seminole to keep parking spaces open for the customers.
Brashear's pharmacy also creates specialty medications for its customers if they aren't available through manufacturers. Sometimes he just creates the compound solutions to offer his customers a cheaper alternative to the manufactured medication they need.
"Most pharmacies won't fool with that," he said.
And he offers another service more likely to be found at a pizza joint than a pharmacy - home delivery.
"If someone's in trouble, where it's an emergency, we'll deliver," he said.
But perhaps the biggest reason the mom-and-pop pharmacy has been able to build such a loyal customer base is its commitment to competitive prices.
"We have made a serious effort to let people know they can save money," he said.
At Brashear's store, Brashear sets the prices, and often it's a third of what his competitors charge, he said.
But making a profit was never really the point for Brashear, who has taken on his first loan to build his new pharmacy that is scheduled to open in February.
As construction crews scramble to build Brashear's 3,650-square-foot store, one that will include a drive-through lane and 20 parking spaces, he still hasn't lost sight of God's plan.
A sign in front of the new store that sits behind the former site of Fedco Discount Drugs, reads, "God has smiled upon us."
Thursday, October 23, 2003
Citrus County Chronicle
'Mom and Pop Shop' - Pharmacist builds his dream
By Krista Zilizi