ROCKWELL — Life behind the counter at Crescent Pharmacy has always been a family affair. And it still is, truth be told.
Friday evening just before closing is always a busy time, but especially so now that the flu and any number of bugs are going around. Ann Goodman and Shelly Batts work diligently and efficiently to fill prescriptions. Eleanor Morgan greets customers at the register. She’s retired after 34 years of working here, but still comes in to help out as needed. Will Lombard keeps an eye on everything.
Folks wait patiently in chairs or at the register. Christmas music plays softly on the radio. The shelves are stocked with your typical over-the-counter remedies, but also with jewelry and Christmas decorations and accessories. Greeting cards are 50 cents apiece, and the Rockwell Civitans are selling fruitcakes for $3.50. A bell jingles at the door when customers come in or out.
Eleanor’s not too keen on having her picture made, but is all for Ann and Shelly being photographed.
“Go comb your hair!” she tells Shelly with a smile. “You look like you’ve been working all day.”
Which, of course, she has.
Shelly, 39, began working at the pharmacy when she was 16. The East Rowan High School grad came back during holiday breaks from the University of North Carolina, where she did undergraduate work and graduated from pharmacy school, and returned to the pharmacy for good about 10 years ago.
In 2010, the torch was passed — or rather the mortar and pestle — from Will to Shelly.
Will and his wife, Mary Gibson, opened the pharmacy in 1959. They started it in his sister’s clinic. Dr. Elizabeth Lombard was a longtime general practitioner in Rockwell. Dr. J.A. Oliver Sr. was Will’s brother-in-law. Dr. Oliver and Dr. Lombard built the current location in 1982 and moved in Dec. 20, the day Will’s grandson, Andy, was born. The practice next door is now run by Dr. Oliver’s grandson, Dr. Joseph Oliver.
Carol Bostian has been coming to the pharmacy for more than 41 years. She was a patient of Dr. Lombard.
“I just loved her so much,” says Carol, who lives in Gold Hill.
She comes because of the service, she says.
Because it’s fast?
“Oh gosh! Yes ma’am,” Carol says. “Faster than anywhere else I could go.”
And she’s known Eleanor a “way, way long time.”
And she’s known the other folks here, too. “They’re just so personable and friendly, and they care about you.”
Will didn’t go to pharmacy school until 1952. Before that, he was an embalmer.
“That was kinda depressing,” he admits.
His wife, whom he called “M,” supported him so that he could go back to school. He got his license in 1957, and decided not to renew it this year, after 55 years as a pharmacist.
He still comes to the pharmacy, to place orders, price the medicine, and stock it.
“We won’t let him go,” Shelly says.
“I feel good,” says Will, now 88. “I like to keep busy. I like to garden.”
He only lives three blocks away, so it’s easy for him to come by.
Will and Mary Gibson had four children, along with eight grandchildren and twin great-granddaughters. His daughter Ann continues to work as a certified pharmacy technician, but didn’t want to buy the business.
“I knew I had to get out,” Will says of his decision to sell. “CVS wanted it, but I wanted to protect my people’s jobs. I hoped Shelly would want it. I wanted her to have it, if she were brave enough to take it on.”
The staff also includes part-time pharmacists Jarrod Lanning and Richard Teeter, as well as Heather Manning, a pharmacy technician and clerk. Shelly’s sister, Jennifer Sides and her cousin, Taylor Arey, help out, too. Besides offering a children’s vitamin club, the pharmacy has competitive prices for select generic drugs at $4 per month or $10 for three months.
Two years after taking the reigns, Shelly says she still looks to her mentor for guidance. She says she’s been asked before if she’s one of Will’s daughters and she always says yes. Will still misses his wife, who died in 2003.
“M really made it go,” he says of the pharmacy. She kept the books and he filled the prescriptions. They made a good team.
Shelly has a good team in place, both at work and at home. Her husband, Charles, 45, works in real estate and land development. He stays home with the couple’s three children, Ella, 8, Brinley, 6, and Callen, 3, when Shelly works on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The family lives in Mount Ulla.
“Staying home with them and giving them time is important to me,” Shelly says. “If I didn’t have the husband I do, I couldn’t make this work.”
Shelly has worked for a chain pharmacy, but it wasn’t for her.
“I love the hometown people, getting to know them,” she says. “We are part of their lives.”
Crescent Pharmacy is located at 314 E. Main St., Rockwell. Hours are 9 am-6 pm Monday-Friday.
Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.