Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 7, 2013

GRANITE QUARRY — A surprising pop of color — red, gray and black — in the middle of otherwise brown downtown Granite Quarry marks something more than the town’s first standalone drugstore in about 30 years.
Price Pharmacy, which opened April 1 in the former F&M Bank building at 110 E. Bank St., also marks the start of an effort to renew the town’s business district, officials say.
“To me, this is the beginning of the revitalization of the business corridor for Granite Quarry,” Town Manager Dan Peters said.
Peters said Price Pharmacy, which has expanded to Granite Quarry from China Grove, fits perfectly with a business development plan the town adopted based on recommendations from the N.C. Downtown Development Association.
Pharmacy co-owners Jim Miles and Andy Caudill were in the process of buying the old bank just as town leaders started to implement the development recommendations.
Even the pharmacy’s bold color scheme seemed to come from the pages of the study, which calls for the town to encourage hues other than brown, the color that permeates the downtown and can make the buildings look alike.
After working for a corporate pharmacy for 14 years, Caudill said he was ready for a change.
Constantly understaffed to meet profit margins demanded by stockholders, Caudill said some days he spent more time filling out paperwork than serving customers.
“They are driven to grow sales and we are too, but not at the expense of our customers,” said Caudill, who went into business with Miles in February 2011.
Now, Caudill has time for his customers. He gets to know them and their families. Staff at the China Grove branch are so familiar with their clients, they often have the prescription at the cash register before the customer reaches the counter.
Miles co-founded Price Pharmacy in June 2009, then bought out his partner in 2011 but kept the name, which already had built a reputation and customer base.
Sales at the China Grove location grew by 42 percent in 2011 over the previous year. In 2012, sales were up 20 percent, and owners expect sales between $4 million and $5 million this year.
“We have had great success in China Grove,” Caudill said. “A lot of people think small stores can’t compete with big box stores, and we can. That’s a big misconception.”
The secrets to their success are free home delivery and pricing. While everyone using insurance pays the same price regardless of pharmacy, people paying cash can find large discrepancies between stores, Caudill said.
In 2012, nearly 25 percent of Price Pharmacy customers paid cash. Caudill and Miles can often undercut corporate competitors on the cash price for drugs.
“That’s where the big difference is,” Caudill said. “We base our price off what we pay for medicines, but we are not looking to get rich. We have to make a profit because we are a business, but we are looking to take care of our customers first.”
Granite Quarry residents soon will see the yellow Price car making free home deliveries. In fact, the pharmacy delivers for free nearly anywhere in Rowan County.
There is no minimum price for delivery, and if a customer needs an over-the-counter product, Price will deliver that too.
“May even be a bottle of Cheerwine,” Miles said.
Customers who use the service either pay cash when the delivery arrives or keep a credit card on file at the store.
Price’s hours are not as convenient as chain drugstores. Open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, the pharmacy makes up for no evening or Sunday hours by offering better customer service, Caudill said.
“Service is the goal,” he said. “I’m there for you.”
Recently, he was there for a customer at 3 a.m., when a panicked parent called Caudill’s cell phone and needed a prescription filled for a sick child.
Caudill met the customer at the China Grove location in the wee hours, something he has done repeatedly.
“We have to make a difference in the service,” he said. “We have to make you want to come back.”
With the success of the China Grove location and a new owner on board, Price was primed for expansion.
Not a pharmacist, Miles eyed Granite Quarry. With no pharmacy on N.C. 52 between Rockwell and Salisbury, Miles said he saw a void that Price could fill.
He and his wife Amy, who works in the China Grove store with son Maverick, were driving through Granite Quarry when they saw the old F&M Bank building for sale.
Paul Fisher, chairman and CEO of F&M Bank, had waited 15 years for the right buyer for his father’s building.
“We were just so tickled for them to come,” Fisher said. “I thought we would never find what we were looking for.
“This has been the perfect match from the very beginning.”
Price now occupies F&M’s second location, built in the late 1950s and used until the 1980s. The original bank still stands behind the pharmacy, and Fisher and bank directors continue to meet in the small stone structure.
“We have never stopped meeting there,” Fisher said. “Because very honestly, it keeps us humble and knowing what we are about, and reminds us that we are here to serve the community.”
That same sense of community service was what sold Fisher on Price Pharmacy as, finally, the right owner for the bank building.
“I did not want to sell the building unless we could sell it to someone who would bring a business to town that we really needed,” Fisher said. “We had opportunities to sell the building for this or that, but they didn’t measure up.”
Now, just as F&M is a community bank, Price is a community pharmacy, he said. As a banker, Fisher said he’s impressed with the business model, especially free home deliveries.
Caudill and Miles have brought life back to the building, which served for several years as a post office. Fisher acknowledged the structure lacks a certain aesthetic quality.
“I reckon it was a pretty building back then, but the ’50s buildings style went out on a permanent basis,” he said.
But with the new color scheme, repaved parking lot, bright signs and decorative scrolls that Miles sketched when he first envisioned the new pharmacy, the building has more curb appeal.
Inside, the facility is perfect for a pharmacy, Caudill said, with a drive-up window, two vaults for storing medications and plenty of storage.
Caudill and Miles, who invested $500,000 to get the pharmacy up and running, put in new carpet, ripped out two offices and installed a decorative bulkhead over the pharmacy counter. Surrounded by windows, the 4,500-square-foot building is flooded with natural light.
With little advertising, Price Pharmacy continues to grow. Six full-time employees work in China Grove, including new pharmacist Tony Clodfelter.
Three full-time employees staff the Granite Quarry location, including Caudill’s wife Sabrina.
When Caudill and Miles first met for lunch to consider going into business together, they thought they were strangers.
It didn’t take long for Caudill to recognize Miles as his seventh-grade football coach from West Rowan Middle School, back in 1983.
As Miles and Caudill prepared to open the Granite Quarry store, town officials stopped by to wish them good luck. When Mayor Mary Ponds walked in, Miles looked up and said hello to his ninth grade science teacher.
For Miles and Caudill, these “small town” stories are just more proof that they’re in the right location, running the right business, with the right people.
“We were looking for someone who would serve the community,” Fisher said. “We waited a long time, and it paid off.”

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.