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New London’s Colonial Pharmacy Set to Move

  • Pharmacists Randy Doerr, left, and Glenn Perreault, right, are building a new home for their Colonial Pharmacy in New London, N.H., after 30 years in their current location. The new pharmacy will be less than a mile away and have a specially equipped room for compouding, allowing them to continue preparing medicines that are not commercially available, or are specific to an individual patient's needs. Doerr and Perreault discuss a prescription Friday, June 16, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Morgan Hemphill, left, gives Doug Sartwell, of Sunapee, a pair of scissors to open the bandage he purchase to stabilize an injured wrist at the Colonial Pharmacy in New London, N.H., Friday, June 16, 2017. "We always joke, (the pharmacy) has everything, and I mean everything," said Sartwell, listing curtains, glasswear, beach supplies and socks along side medical needs. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Pharmacist Randy Doerr waves to a customer at the Colonial Pharmacy in New London, N.H., Friday, June 16, 2017. Doerr's father and grandfather were both pharmacists, but he dissuaded his own son from learning the family business because of the difficulty of staying in business with an independent pharmacy. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Pharmacist Glenn Perreault looks over plans for Colonial Pharmacy's new building that will be less than a mile from its current location in New London, N.H., Friday, June 16, 2017. The new building will have a compounding room, built to meet new requirements from the FDA, and a larger consultation room. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Business Writer
Monday, June 19, 2017

New London — Countless neighborhood drugstores have been gobbled up by corporate chains, but New London’s Colonial Pharmacy has proven to be indispensable.

The privately owned pharmacy has steadfastly remained independent in an industry where 70 percent of all pharmacies in the state are operated by the likes of CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens.

Now, Colonial Pharmacy is doing the corporate behemoths two better: The 50-year-old pharmacy and household items emporium is moving out of the New London shopping plaza, where it has been located for decades, and building its own $4.5 million new home a quarter-mile away on Newport Road. Construction already is underway with occupancy targeted for November.

The move stands in sharp contrast to industry trends — there are only 30 independent pharmacies left in New Hampshire out of a total of 316 in the state, according to the state’s pharmacy board — but one that is financially compelling and will help the business to grow, owners Glenn Perreault and Randy Doerr said.

“Our lease option is expiring and the business climate is right,” Perreault said in explaining the move during an interview in Doerr’s small and cluttered office at the store on Newport Road outside downtown New London. “Our intention is to keep Colonial Pharmacy independent. We feel very strongly about not selling to a chain.”

Colonial Pharmacy, originally located at the corner of Newport Road and County Road in the building currently occupied by Hubert’s Family Outfitters, was founded in 1967 by Bill Faccone. In 1987, Faccone moved the store across the street into the space formerly occupied by Cricenti’s Market in what is now Colonial Plaza. In 1990, when Faccone retired, he sold the business to employees Doerr and Vern Bailey.

When Bailey retired in 2010, he sold his interest to Perreault, who had worked as a pharmacist at the business since 1993.

Perreault and Doerr like to point out that they run Colonial Pharmacy much like the neighborhood drugstore of yore. They deliver prescriptions. The store still has private charge accounts. If a customer finds out they’ve run out of pills on a prescription they’ve forgotten to renew on a Saturday night, the pharmacists at Colonial Pharmacy are approved by regulators to provide a short supply until the customer can get the renewal from their prescribing doctor.

“You won’t see a chain pharmacy doing that,” Doerr insisted.

Colonial Pharmacy, which carries a large selection of household items such as furnishings, sheets, blankets, hardware and sporting goods, toys, small appliances and local arts and crafts products, occupies 12,000 square feet, but will have 14,000 square feet at its new location. The new building will include a compounding lab for Perreault — he still custom-makes prescriptions, a rarity among pharmacists today — and a consultation room for immunizations and fittings for braces and diabetic footwear.

There will even be two EV charging stations for electric-powered cars, which will be the first non-Telsa chargers in the Lake Sunapee region, according to Perreault and Doerr.

The two trained pharmacists — New Hampshire native Perreault graduated from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences while Doerr is a third-generation pharmacist who grew up in the Midwest — said they have been paying $500,000 annually for the rent at Colonial Plaza, but they will be paying only $300,000 annually to repay the loan for the new building that is being financed through a combination of Small Business Administration and bank loans.

Colonial Pharmacy’s success is partly due to the number of pharmacies, chain or independent, along the Interstate 89 corridor in the towns Lebanon and Concord: there are at least 10, including three in New London, three in Newport, and one apiece in Enfield, Henniker, Hopkinton and Warner, according to New Hampshire state licensing records.

As a result, there is a demand for what Colonial Pharmacy has to offer. The business generates nearly $9 million a year in revenue, which Doerr laughs is “not bad for a little pharmacy in rural New Hampshire.”

The business employs about 40 people during the summer season, when the area’s population swells with vacation residents and about 35 people during the winter season.

Another advantage that will come in owning both the pharmacy as well as the building in which it operates is that it make the entire business more attractive to a buyer come the day Perreault, 59, and Doerr, 68, decide to retire. A pharmacy that might have to relocate when its lease expires is a disincentive to a potential buyer, Doerr pointed out, whereas owning the building also would give the buyer an income-yielding property should they want to lease the space.

“This gives us a better opportunity if we want to sell one day,” Doerr said.

Perreault and Doerr said it’s probably a toss-up between Colonial Pharmacy and The Prescription Center in Concord as to which is the biggest pharmacy in the state. On a typical day, they said, Colonial Pharmacy will fill between 250 to 300 prescriptions per day.

Although independent pharmacies are thought to be unable to compete against mail-order providers and chains, Perreault and Doerr maintain that is a myth.

For example, Colonial Pharmacy offers a Prescription Savings Program in which, at a cost of $4.99 per month for individuals and $9.99 for families, customers get steep discounts off prescribed generic medications.

The plan is identical to that offered by the chains and Walmart — only a penny less.

“I like to say we’re even cheaper than Walmart,” Doerr said.

The reason Colonial Pharmacy can sell medications at the same cost as chains is because it is affiliated with HealthMart, which negotiates with pharmaceutical companies on behalf of independent pharmacies to ensure that they can compete on price and services against the giants. Like any franchisor, HealthMart also provides branding and marketing support to local pharmacies along with the processing capability to work with more than 300 insurance plans.

But Perreault and Doerr said it is not so much being able to sell medications at the same cost as mail-order services and chains as much as it is old-fashioned, small-town service that helps them hold onto their customers — whether it’s working with a customer who has asthma to find a free inhaler, or navigating the government bureaucracy to obtain a Medicaid reimbursement.

“To get a free inhaler for someone — that’s huge,” Perreault said.

“People think it’s just throwing pills in a bottle. But what we do is so much more than that. We take care of people here. When I get home at night, I know I’ve helped somebody.”

John Lippman can be reached at jlippman@vnews.com.

Correction

There are at least 10 pharmacies in the towns along the Interstate 89 corridor between Lebanon and Concord. An earlier version of this story misidentified the corridor and failed to mention pharmacies in Hopkinton and Warner.