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Pharmacist Allan Rajesky builds his business from the ground up

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Even as a young pharmacist starting his career, Allan Rajesky believed pharmacies need to provide more specialized services to their customers.

 

By Talbot Boggs

Photography by David Watt

 

That conviction was behind his strategy in building Copperfield Pharmasave from scratch in Calgary, with the support of the Pharmasave team. After looking at several options, he settled on a former children’s clothing store in a mall on a busy main road because the site also contained doctors’ offices and some other related healthcare professionals. “I really wanted to differentiate myself from a large chain pharmacy across the street and an independent in the area and decided the best way to do that was just to start from scratch and create what I wanted.”

Rajesky gutted the old store. Construction began last October and the store opened early this year. His concept was to have three distinct areas – the dispensary, frontshop and an area dedicated solely to services. “It is designed so that each of these three areas should be sustainable and independent,” Rajesky says. “My trading area has a youthful demographic with a lot of couples and young families. Only five per cent of the population is over 55, so I really wanted to offer products and services targeted to that young demographic base.”

The frontshop has a “a bit of everything” that shoppers would normally find in most drugstores – confectionery, OTCs, convenience, house cleaning products, cough and cold, personal and skin care and feminine hygiene – but he has also focused on baby care and breast feeding supplies such as hospital-grade and home breast pumps, bra pads, nipple creams, sterilizers, nursing pillows and a 24-hour blood pressure monitor for pregnant mothers. “We have a line of breast products that you would have to drive for 20 or 30 minutes to find anywhere else,” Rajesky says.

Rajesky has created a home healthcare and medical supply offering that has made his local competitors envious. It includes braces, splints, mobility aids, compression stockings and air casts in multiple sizes that can be fitted to patients’ individual needs by registered fitters. “It really helps to differentiate us from our competitors,” Rajesky says. “They are real destination items, and as a result we get a lot of referrals from doctors and other pharmacies in the area.”

Specializing in services

The services section of the store consists of two consulting rooms with enough space for a third “if it really gets busy” for medication reviews, injections, flu shots, and specialized fittings and consultations. Rajesky intentionally made the dispensary a little smaller to leave more room for the services area and plans to rent out space to external specialists for such things as a travel medicine clinic.

“I believe that everyone should have a speciality – we have certified respiratory, diabetes and travel educators, we all have authority to inject, and we are all getting our additional prescribing authority,” Rajesky says. “Services lead to prescriptions, which lead to services and more prescriptions. It’s a great way to improve revenue and provide a higher level of personalized care.”

The dispensary features a compounding laboratory and injection preparation area complete with a dishwasher to clean glassware, a large vaccine refrigerator, and a lift-up counter over the sink which allows staff to quickly prepare compounds and injections. “We put a list of the all kinds of compounds we can do in the main window and it’s really bringing a lot of people in to the store,” Rajesky says. “Most business is coming from referrals. Nobody seems very concerned about price, so it’s a very nice little extra.”

Rajesky spent about $500,000 on the project and is on target after only a few months in business. His frontshop is two to three times busier than projected, thanks to the location, price and selection of his home healthcare section. The volume of prescriptions is a little behind schedule, but it’s too early to tell because a lot of patients haven’t been with the pharmacy long enough to need refills.

And customers are just beginning to learn about the services and programs he offers. “These are very early days, but traffic is growing, we’re getting very good responses from our customers and lots of referrals,” he says. “It’s a matter of time, but if you offer the right products and services, people will come.”