Articles written for various community newspapers in the Lower Mainland, B.C. and special interest print and online magazines

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

History repeats itself

A new mom and pop pharmacy opened March 1 on Gallant Street in Deep Cove.

Designed like an old chemists shop to fit in with the village flavour of other buildings, Deep Cove Pharmacy is owned by business and life partners Arif Datoo and Fehmina Lalani and their friend Lani Ha.

The neighbourhood pharmacy is the first to crop up after the former local pharmacy closed about 40 years ago which signals a return to a more traditional approach to providing pharmaceutical services.

Two-and-a-half kilometers away from Shoppers Drug Mart at Parkgate Mall, Datoo is not worried that the store could suffer from being overshadowed by the larger chain as has been the trend in other industries.

In fact, it wasn’t even a factor when they chose to open the business because Deep Cove has a lot of community support for small businesses that are owner operated, he said.

“We’ve even had people just come in and say, ‘Welcome to the neighbourhood’. The feedback has been phenomenal,” Datoo said.

The store offers free delivery, blood pressure checks, consultations, medication reviews and advice. They also sell homeopathic items but have not yet settled on a product line as they are waiting on community input before they decide what to stock.

“We really want to focus on the patient care and not on all the other things that some of the bigger stores focus on,” Datoo said.

One of the principal differences between corporate brand pharmacies and boutique stores is building relationships that are based on quality service rather than sales, Datoo said.

Having worked at bigger pharmacies, they found operating their own store allowed them to put the patient first, much like the difference between doctors running a family medical practice versus working at a walk-in clinic.

“With the big chains there’s one way to do something. When you work for yourself you can do whatever it takes to help that patient and I think that’s the main difference. We make the decision on what we need to do, not somebody from Toronto," Datoo said.

Lalani agreed that the business model chain pharmacies follow doesn’t provide optimal health care. Speaking of her previous experience at a large pharmacy, she said:

“A lot of times what used to happen is that people would come to see me I’d have 15 prescriptions waiting and this person maybe needed 10 or 15 minutes of my uninterrupted time but I couldn’t give it to them.”

Most big pharmacies only had one pharmacist working at a time because of cost, she said.

Another of Deep Cove Pharmacy’s unique appeals is that a visit to the pharmacy is a trip down memory lane for long-time residents in Deep Cove.

The store has a display featuring 60-to-70-year-old apothecary items that the couple collected from antique stores and from eBay in the combined 30 years they have been in the pharmaceutical industry.

“Some of the items are actually original Rexall items and we do carry a full Rexall line. Some of them have price tags in them some of them actually have product still in them.”

The effect is a sort of museum for history buffs wanting to get their fix of the past while waiting to have their prescriptions filled.

“A lot of older people come in and they point and go, ‘I remember that’,” Lalani said.

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