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Saying Goodbye to ‘Family’: Hanover’s Eastman’s Pharmacy Closes After 75-Plus Years in Business

  • Susan Wright, of Sunapee, right, stopped in to wish Eastman's Pharmacy owners Melissa Knight and her husband Mark well during their last day in business in Hanover Wednesday, February 19, 2014. Melissa Knight will continue working as a compounding pharmacist at Warner Pharmacy. "It's an institution," said Wright. "They've really kept this feeling of the Hanover community being a welcoming community going strong."<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Susan Wright, of Sunapee, right, stopped in to wish Eastman's Pharmacy owners Melissa Knight and her husband Mark well during their last day in business in Hanover Wednesday, February 19, 2014. Melissa Knight will continue working as a compounding pharmacist at Warner Pharmacy. "It's an institution," said Wright. "They've really kept this feeling of the Hanover community being a welcoming community going strong."
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Eastman's Pharmacy has occupied several locations on South Main Street in Hanover, N.H. since opening in 1938, but it closed it's doors for good Wednesday, February 19, 2014.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Eastman's Pharmacy has occupied several locations on South Main Street in Hanover, N.H. since opening in 1938, but it closed it's doors for good Wednesday, February 19, 2014.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Karen Winkler, middle, welcomes Edna and Bill Silverman, of Hanover, in from the snow at Eastman's Pharmacy in Hanover, N.H. Wednesday, February 19, 2014. "Where am I going to take my penny candy from now?" joked Bill Silverman. Silverman lamented that Hanover is losing small businesses that cater to the community's needs in favor of a multitude of restaurants. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Karen Winkler, middle, welcomes Edna and Bill Silverman, of Hanover, in from the snow at Eastman's Pharmacy in Hanover, N.H. Wednesday, February 19, 2014. "Where am I going to take my penny candy from now?" joked Bill Silverman. Silverman lamented that Hanover is losing small businesses that cater to the community's needs in favor of a multitude of restaurants.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Susan Wright, of Sunapee, right, stopped in to wish Eastman's Pharmacy owners Melissa Knight and her husband Mark well during their last day in business in Hanover Wednesday, February 19, 2014. Melissa Knight will continue working as a compounding pharmacist at Warner Pharmacy. "It's an institution," said Wright. "They've really kept this feeling of the Hanover community being a welcoming community going strong."<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Eastman's Pharmacy has occupied several locations on South Main Street in Hanover, N.H. since opening in 1938, but it closed it's doors for good Wednesday, February 19, 2014.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Karen Winkler, middle, welcomes Edna and Bill Silverman, of Hanover, in from the snow at Eastman's Pharmacy in Hanover, N.H. Wednesday, February 19, 2014. "Where am I going to take my penny candy from now?" joked Bill Silverman. Silverman lamented that Hanover is losing small businesses that cater to the community's needs in favor of a multitude of restaurants. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Hanover — On Wednesday afternoon, as snow fell on South Main Street, a steady stream of customers trekked into Eastman’s Pharmacy, the family-run business that has served customers in downtown Hanover since the 1930s.

Many brought cards or even gifts of food, which accumulated on tables in the back room, and almost all who spoke to owners Mark and Melissa Knight and other staff offered well wishes for the future and dismay over what would be lost: Eastman’s closed its doors permanently a few hours later, succumbing to the latest blow from the changing health care industry when it was left off Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s list of “preferred” pharmacies for employees.

The closing, for many, has been heart-rending, as it signals another loss of a neighborhood business with friendly, familiar faces on the ever-changing landscape of downtown Hanover.

“It’s very emotional,” said pharmacy technician Karen Winkler. “You hear so many stories of people who have been coming (to Eastman’s) for 50 years, so there is a sense of mourning.”

Despite having worked at Eastman’s for less than a year, she said, customers’ stories have been moving.

“There are so many local people who call this place home,” she said.

Among them may be Etna resident Ben Schore, who has been frequenting Eastman’s for more than 20 years. Schore made his last run to the pharmacy on Wednesday with partner Kathy Rines.

The staff, they said, are “family.”

“I care for local merchants, I don’t care for the big shots,” Schore said. “It’s impossible to make any kind of a personal connection (at large pharmacies), and I live off personal connections. ... I’m a do-business-with-a-person kind of person.”

Schore said he has consistently looked forward to seeing longtime staff and pharmacists whom he knows — and who know him — before “leaving with a smile on my face.”

For the Knights, who have owned the store for almost nine years, bidding farewell to hundreds of customers such as Schore and Rines has been the most difficult part of closing their business.

“It’s sad,” Mark Knight said, surveying the shop Wednesday. “We’re breaking a lot of hearts here.”

Deb Kenealy, of West Lebanon, said she liked the fact that Eastman’s carried a particular product she needs, and beyond that, “this was always a warm, friendly place,” she said.

“It was a small-town appeal, and I guess I don’t like to see us losing that,” she said. It’s disturbing, she said, that “corporate mentality is superceding small business people.”

Other customers pointed to neighborhood businesses that have become bygones over the years, including well-known camera and cigar stores. In recent years, a slick new Starbucks replaced Campions, a longtime Hanover landmark.

But are the changes affecting the character of downtown Hanover?

“Of course,” Kenealy said. “These are the people that invest in the area more than the corporate people. ... If CVS goes out down the road, I don’t think people would have the same reaction.”

Others, such as Robert C. Yoffe, who’s been supplying Eastman’s with sunglasses for more than 25 years, took the changes in stride: “It’s tough running an independent store these days. ... Things change,” he said.

Rines believes it’s important to “remember fondly” the old stores, but also to “celebrate the additions,” pointing to the opening of the Canoe Club across the street little more than a decade ago. The restaurant has already made itself a Hanover fixture.

“You just have to have the attitude that you have to accept what Hanover is every year,” she said.

Most customer prescriptions at Eastman’s are being transferred to CVS, which has a location down the street. The national chain bought out Eastman’s and will close it in the coming days. When a customer calls the old Eastman’s phone number, it will ring at CVS, Mark Knight said.

Warner Pharmacy in Warner, N.H., is taking over Eastman’s compounding prescription business, and Melissa Knight will work there part-time.

The move was sparked by a change in the way Dartmouth-Hitchcock allows its 8,700 employees to choose their pharmacists. Going forward, employees would have to chip in a larger co-pay to fill prescriptions with pharmacies that are not on a “preferred” list, such as Eastman’s, Valley News columnist Jim Kenyon reported on Sunday.

To receive their maximum insurance benefits, employees are being urged to fill their short-term prescriptions, such as antibiotics, at the in-house retail pharmacy at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Maintenance medications taken on a regular schedule, such as medications for diabetes, will be purchased by mail order through D-H or CVS, which manages pharmacy benefits plans for employers, including D-H.

Eastman’s stock of drugs and medications are being sold to CVS, and other merchandise will be sold to a liquidator. There will be a day of inventorying and cleanup today, Mark Knight said, but “if you come knock on the door,” they’ll direct you down the street to CVS.

At Eastman’s on Wednesday, the mood was melancholy although with a chin-up attitude. The Knights are excited and ready for the future, Mark Knight said, but they are sad to see the end of “a lot of long-lasting relationships.”

“It’s been hard since we announced (the closing),” he said. People told the couple that it would get easier — but that hasn’t been the case.

“It’s actually gotten harder every day,” he said. “People come in and tell their stories. ... That’s the disappointing part, that we’re letting them down, of course. But we’ve got to survive.”

Maggie Cassidy can be reached at mcassidy@vnews.com or 603-727-3220.