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Pharmasave Ontario celebrates unique pharmacy culture

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How quickly life can change. Almost 17 years ago, Mark Gayowski sat down to hear a presentation about becoming a member of the Pharmasave Ontario family. Within a couple of minutes he discovered his destiny.

By Talbot Boggs


“Five minutes into the presentation it became obvious to me that they were ‘walking the walk’ and had the programs, passion, skills and culture that I needed to take my business to the next level and equip it to change as the profession changed,” says Gayowski, who also became one of the original board of directors in Ontario.

“One of the really unique features of Pharmasave is that it is owned by its members and is dedicated entirely to helping them improve their businesses and the level of care they provide to patients in their communities. It is really a family dedicated to helping one another to succeed.”


And succeed it has. Pharmasave Ontario has grown since 1997 into a family of more than 220 independent community drugstores across the province with total sales exceeding $500 million a year. Stores range in size from 300 sq. ft. to 10,000 sq. ft. in both small and large communities across the province. Regardless of the size of their store or the number of locations, members can access a broad range of programs, systems, products, services and personnel to help their businesses succeed.

Michael Ibrahim, for example, joined Pharmasave in 2007 and built a small pharmacy from scratch in the picturesque town of Bayfield, south of Goderich. In 2009, he won the national Commitment to Care and Service award for pharmacy and the following year was awarded the local Chamber of Commerce’s Best Business award.

And succeed it has. Pharmasave Ontario has grown since 1997 into a family of more than 220 independent community drugstores across the province with total sales exceeding $500 million a year. Stores range in size from 300 sq. ft. to 10,000 sq. ft. in both small and large communities across the province. Regardless of the size of their store or the number of locations, members can access a broad range of programs, systems, products, services and personnel to help their businesses succeed.

Michael Ibrahim, for example, joined Pharmasave in 2007 and built a small pharmacy from scratch in the picturesque town of Bayfield, south of Goderich. In 2009, he won the national Commitment to Care and Service award for pharmacy and the following year was awarded the local Chamber of Commerce’s Best Business award.

Since opening, Ibrahim has undergone three renovations, including the latest addition of 1,100 sq. ft. last July. His store is now 3,500 sq. ft., features a specialization in home healthcare and compounding, and serves a much wider market that includes local communities such as Clinton and Zurich.

“Culture is the integral aspect of the Pharmasave program and is a key point of differentiation between us and our competitors,” says Doug Sherman, Chief Executive Officer with Pharmasave Ontario. “In a member-owned and governed cooperative, it is extremely important to develop and maintain a family-like sharing and collaborative culture among members and employees. “

Pharmasave’s strategy is to grow the organization with quality members and provide support to every member through a team of quality employees who fit well with its culture.

Damini Sandhu owns two Pharmasave stores in Hamilton and, like Ibrahim, has relied on Pharmasave extensively to help her with renovations over the years, in one instance completely remerchandising a store in three days.

But for her, one of Pharmasave’s greatest strengths is the “buffet of programs” it offers in almost every area of pharmacy and retail operations from innovation, information technology, financing, marketing, product selection, national category management, succession planning, pricing strategies, clinical practices, new product information packages, community seminars and business operations reviews.

An 800-SKU private label program is a key part of the success of the Pharmasave business model. In addition to regular in-person pharmacy and front store meetings, an important component of Pharmasave support is the numerous webinars used to train individual owners and their staff how to implement the programs in their stores.

“The great thing is that Pharmasave has people who specialize in individual programs – so if you have a question or problem you always know who you can call for help and actually talk to someone,” says Sandhu, who lately has become very interested and involved in conducting a complete review of her businesses.

“The organization truly is working for the benefit and success of its owners,” Sandhu adds. “We really are one large family, and if I had known about how tremendous it is, I would have joined 20 years earlier.”