Pharmacists Break Out on Their Own

MAY 28, 2018
Karen Berger, PharmD
With the opening of Shiloh Apothecary in Corinth, Mississippi, a distant dream became an exciting adventure for Stephanie Mathis, PharmD, and Raymond Mathis, PharmD, MBA.

The two met as employees at an independent pharmacy, she as a technician and he as an intern. Raymond graduated in 2008 and Stephanie in 2014, and both then worked for Walgreens. She was placed at James Bennett Apothecary Powered by Walgreens, which was acquired in the Super D buyout. Located on Shiloh Road in Corinth, it was known simply as Bennett’s by employees and locals.

Although the pharmacy was part of a large chain, it felt like an independent, according to Stephanie Mathis, who was a staff/compounding pharmacist. In May 2017, Walgreens said that it would close Bennett’s. Stephanie was offered a floater position, but it was incompatible with her family’s schedule, and the rural location would require many hours of travel between stores.

Both Raymond and Stephanie Mathis had thought about opening their own pharmacy but never expected the opportunity to present itself so quickly. Finally, Stephanie decided that no job could compare to what she had at Bennett’s unless she created it herself.

Shiloh Apothecary opened on April 16, 2018, co-owned by the Mathises. With his MBA, Raymond Mathis, who also works full time at a local hospital, handles the business side.

Stephanie Mathis is excited to be making her own decisions at the pharmacy, particularly regarding building relationships. A chain often limits what pharmacists can offer in terms of patient care, but as an independent, she said, she can carve out her niche and care for patients the way she would like so that they get to know and trust her as a health care provider.

Shiloh Apothecary is a true family business—the Mathises’ 2 daughters, ages 2 and 4, often visit their mom at work—and now the older one says that she wants to be a pharmacist, too.

Through Facebook (.com/shilohapothecary) as well as local advertising, Shiloh is spreading the word about the business. Facebook followers, who have been able to watch the progress from construction to opening, receive a free 30-day supply of chewable vitamins for children ages 2 to 12. The page also introduces technicians Kellie Carter and Ryan Lipford—certified pharmacy technician and delivery driver, respectively—pictured standing next to a car decorated with the Shiloh Apothecary logo.

Stephanie Mathis plans to offer special services— automatic refills, free delivery, medication synchronization, and pill packing—that will expand with the business. The couple hope to bring back services that set Bennett’s apart, such as a Coumadin clinic, as well as classes taught by a certified diabetes educator, shoe fitting, and insulin pump training for patients with diabetes.

She realizes that patients want to do more than just get prescriptions filled when visiting a pharmacy— they are interested in self-care and wellness, too. She plans to stock the shelves with consumer products reflecting a holistic approach to health care, with a variety of items related to aromatherapy, nutrition, skin care, and supplements.

The baby department will focus on needs before, during, and after pregnancy, as well as offer breastfeeding support. Shiloh Apothecary will carry products for morning sickness and belly-postpartum support, as well as prenatal supplements, nursing and pumping bras, breast pumps for rental or purchase, and a variety of other breastfeeding needs—creams, shields, and storage pads, as well as supplements to enhance milk supply. Plenty of baby care items, such as vitamins and treatment for colic, rashes, and skin care, will be available. A “baby shower” will formally introduce the department to the Corinth community.

The biggest struggle thus far has been obtaining and finalizing contracts with insurance companies, Stephanie Mathis says, but she said that they are “ready to roll up our sleeves and put in some hard work.” A local mom-and-pop store with a dedicated team, offering services that sets it apart from the competition—that describes an independent that will succeed.

Good luck to Shiloh Apothecary!
 
Karen Berger, PharmD, is a pharmacist at an independent pharmacy in northern New Jersey.


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