by Talbot Boggs
Brian and Rosanne Currie know a thing or two about pharmacy transformations. They should because they’ve done major refurbishments on two of the three pharmacies they own in rural Ontario over the last decade.
Back in 2008 the Curries were “bumping bums” with staff and customers as they moved about their Pellow Pharmasave store in Walkerton, ON. They spent some $300,000 back then to double the size of the original store to 5,000 sq. ft. and re-focus it into a destination location for cosmetics, gift, home décor and natural wellness products and bring to the small community a larger, city-type of offerings and make the store a wellness destination.
Ten years later, the couple have done a similar transformation to their Pharmasave store in Lucknow, a small community of 1,200 in Bruce County. “We were a full front shop with a gift and home décor section all squeezed into a very small space,” Brian Currie said in an interview. “We wanted to offer our customers an urban shopping experience with a wider product selection and a more open, spacious and bright environment for browsing.”
Lucknow was originally one store of 1,400 sq. ft. The Curries purchased the building beside it and renovated the back third for a long-term care room to do blister packaging to supply nursing homes and seniors’ lodges in the town and surrounding areas. The front two-thirds remained empty for a while until the store’s front shop manager expressed an interest in expanding the gift and home décor sections and a small door was put in giving access to space to expand those categories.
A few years later Brian and Rosanne purchased the next adjacent building and started to plan for an entire new store in the three buildings. Brian came up with the current design. Renovations started in Sept, 2016 and were completed early in 2018 at a cost of about $800,000. “We took our time to ensure we did it right,” Brian says. “It took revision after revision to turn what were essentially three stores into one without making it look like it was originally three.”
Where possible the Curries used local contractors. The new store consists of 5,100 sq. ft. of retail space, 1,400 sq. ft. of storage area, and incorporated specialties and services to meet the specific needs of the community and customers, including long-term care, gift and home décor, a fashion section with clothing and accessories, a new area featuring natural health products and organics and a much expanded dispensary.
“Our old dispensary was only 11 feet long but the new one is more than triple that,” Brian says. “We also put in two pharmacist offices where the old dispensary was, one for retail and one for long-term care. We now have a large gift and home décor section as well as a large fashion/clothing section with two change rooms that are used constantly. Lucknow is a small community. We lost our only grocery store a few years ago and a lot of people were leaving to do their shopping elsewhere, so we added some items to assist them in shopping locally.“
So far, the store has experienced a 244-per-cent increase in food sales, 11 per cent in health and beauty aids and nine per cent in cosmetics. Brian hopes to start up a new Ideal Protein program in the New Year and says his customers are ecstatic about the look, ambience and product offerings of the new store.
“It feels much like your typical pharmacy in the city,” he says. “My advice to pharmacy owners thinking of doing the same would be to plan, plan and plan. I designed the store myself and took a few years to figure out what we wanted and needed. Realize that if you are working in the same space as the renovation you will be moving products time and time again. That was a difficult process but the end results were worth the pain.”