Pharmacy’s focus on service: Price, Miles look to create opposite feel of a supercenter

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 10, 2009

By Noelle Edwards
CHINA GROVE ó Jim Miles and Jason Price are trying to recreate a piece of history. They don’t do re-enactments or dress up in costumes. Instead, they are attempting to take a step back in time by operating a small pharmacy.
Price said he remembers as a child going to small pharmacies and other businesses that were owned by local merchants who knew customers’ names. Customers didn’t go in and out of a store without anyone speaking to them, like happens so often now, he said.
With five staff members, including Miles and pharmacist Price, Price Pharmacy on U.S. 29 is starting to get into a groove after opening in June.
Miles said business has picked up 30 to 40 percent each month the pharmacy has been open. The store sells prescription and over-the-counter drugs and medical supplies. It’s not a pharmacy supercenter ó there are no food aisles, school supplies or makeup ó but Miles said it specializes in service.
“Our niche is going to be our service,” he said.
For instance, customers typically are in and out in five minutes or less, he said. If the wait is going to be longer ó or just if a customer requests it ó someone will deliver the medicine to a customer’s house for free.
That especially is helpful for older patients or patients who are disabled and aren’t able to drive easily.
“It’s really gratifying,” Miles said.
He said they’ve taken prescriptions all over Rowan County and will mail them to people farther away.
They try to greet every customer by name ó which is easier than it sounds, given that Miles and Price, his nephew, both grew up in Rowan County.
That’s the key to their service, Price said. He lives here and sees his customers at church, sports events and restaurants. He said he has to be able to face them, knowing he treated them well in his store.
“Once we get someone in here, I believe we have a customer for life because of how we treat people,” he said.
Opening an independent pharmacy has been Price’s dream a long time. In school at Medical College of Virginia, he took entrepreneurial pharmacy classes. He started out working at Eckerd’s, but the customer service just isn’t there in large chain drug stores, he said.
Miles was working in the manufactured housing industry, which took a hit because of the economy. This was the right time for the pair to go into business. It took about eight months to get the store going, but they had been talking about the idea for a couple of years. They knew exactly what they wanted to do.
Price said a lot of people come in and spend their last dime on their medicine; he said being aware of that makes him more attentive to customers.
“You have to give people customer service,” Price said.
Miles said larger pharmacies rely on employees who probably don’t know customers personally and often see a customer’s needs as just more work. He said the people who work at Price Pharmacy are more invested in the business and the community.
The pharmacy’s hours are shorter than the Rite Aid a few doors down and other chain drug stores. It is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is closed Sundays.
Price said he thinks people will get used to the hours and will be willing to shop more limited hours because of faster service and the option for delivery.
Also, Miles said, Price Pharmacy takes the same insurance plans chain pharmacies take, and they match 99 percent of Walmart $4 prescription offers.
The store’s smaller size, specialization and free home deliveries will help, not hurt, them, Miles said.
“We plan on being here for awhile,” he said.