The CEO of Value Drug Mart Associates Ltd. says a new Red Deer drug store is unique among the approximately 70 outlets in his organization.
Alan Hodgins was in the city on Tuesday for the grand opening of Red Deer’s Value Drug Mart at 6315 Horn St.
The pharmacy recently moved there from its previous location a short distance south in Highland Green.
Owned by pharmacist Greg Stokowski, it occupies a bay that was previously the site of Moonwalker Fun Centre.
Incorporated into the space is Family Practice & Walk In Medical Centre, where five physicians practice.
These include Drs. Tony Ford and Derek Rautenbach, who previously operated the Highland Park Walk-in Medical Clinic next to Value Drug Mart’s former store.
The pharmacy and medical clinic share common space, including a waiting area and children’s play space that contains some of Moonwalker’s old equipment.
Hodgins said the proximity of the drug store to the clinic creates benefits.
“You now have the ability for the pharmacist and the doctor to actually meet physically,” he said, describing how they can discuss the needs of individual patients rather than communicate via a prescription pad.
“I would say it’s completely unique,” said Hodgins, referring to the Value Drug Marts, Apple Drugs and Rxellence Professional Dispensaries that are under the Value Drug Mart Associates umbrella.
He added that many independent drug stores have struggled to compete with big box stores, but the tide could be turning.
“In the last two or three years in our company we’ve seen a definite resurgence in independents,” said Hodgins, attributing this to increased investment by independent operators in their stores.
“We’ve had significant renovations here, in Sylvan Lake and Wainwright, in Vegreville, in Rimbey, in Drayton Valley.”
In the case of Stokowski’s store, he’s followed the lead of many big retailers and developed a tobacco outlet that operates independent of his main store. That allows him to sell tobacco products without contravening new provincial legislation.
“A lot of the big box stores have done this type of thing,” said Hodgins, adding that most independents can’t.
Stokowski defends his decision to sell tobacco, pointing out that it is a drug. He said it allows him to talk to patients about their medical conditions and the impact of tobacco use.
“There’s a chance of intervention. How much intervention do you get at a gas station?”
Stokowski has worked as a pharmacist in the Highland Green area for more than 25 years. He started his professional career in a drug store at the same strip mall his new store is in, and opened a Value Drug Mart at his previous location nearly 20 years ago.