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Corner drug store celebrates 50 years



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Meet the hard-working and friendly staff of Patterson Prescription Pharmacy: Sarah Vernier (from left), Barbara Ross, Pam Lambregtse, Stacy Ruiz, Patty Simon and owner Pharmacist Tim Davidson. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
January 15, 2014 - The corner drug store.

It's a friendly place that conjures up Norman Rockwell-esque images of neighborhood kids sitting at the soda fountain and eating ice cream while a bespectacled pharmacist in a crisp white coat toils away amidst a sea of pills and bottles.

In many towns, the corner drug store has vanished as a local institution. It's been replaced by homogenized retail chains and pharmacy counters inside supermarkets.

Fortunately, Oxford still has its drug store located at the southwest corner of Washington and Burdick streets.

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The soda fountain is long gone, but the charm and comfort of a bygone era remains.

"We don't have any plans to go away," said Pharmacist Tim Davidson, owner of Patterson Prescription Pharmacy. "We'd like to stay right where we're at."

Patterson Prescription Pharmacy is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

It's the oldest operating business in downtown Oxford.

In January 1964, Pharmacist Bill Patterson, who passed away in 2006, bought the drug store from Pharmacist Lee VanWagoner, who had been serving Oxford since 1927.

Back then, the Oxford Leader reported, "Bill plans no major remodeling or decorating improvements at this time. His plans, primarily, are to concentrate on service to customers."

Patterson, a native of Clawson, ran the business until January 1994 when he retired and sold it to Davidson, his son-in-law.

"It seems like yesterday," Davidson said.

Over the years, the pharmacy business has become hyper-competitive, but Patterson's has endured and thrived because of its tireless commitment to patients and customers.

"We're here to help people," said Davidson, a 1975 Oxford High School graduate. "Being focused on that has helped us maintain our longevity."

Although the use of technology has increased in his industry and been a great help in many ways, Davidson believes it's still no substitute for dealing with people on a one-on-one basis.

"There will always be a need for that," he said. "Most medication errors are discovered or avoided through face-to-face interaction with patients."

Davidson learned a lot about how to deal with people from watching Patterson, a 1955 graduate of the University of Michigan School of Pharmacy. Davidson worked in the store for six years prior to purchasing it and interned there during college.

"(Patterson) got to know people and he was generally a joy to be around," he said. "His approach to life was positive and happy."

Patterson had a talent for remembering names, faces and details such as patients' doctors and who's related to whom in town.

"That made him a better pharmacist," Davidson said. "I've tried to emulate his positive traits."

Over the years, Patterson Prescription Pharmacy has had the privilege of serving multiple generations within the same families.

"We value that business," Davidson said.

He admitted that filling prescriptions for parents, their children and their children's children has led him to "wonder where all the time went."

But Davidson wouldn't trade this experience for anything because many of his patients are friends, neighbors and fellow church members.

He was quick to point out that Patterson's is not a one-man operation.

He believes the reason so many patients and customers keep coming back is because he's had such a consistent and dependable staff. The people who frequent Patterson's know when they walk through the door, they're going to see the familiar faces of folks they've grown to rely on and trust.

"I think people appreciate knowing there's someone here they've dealt with before," Davidson said.

Davidson has two employees, Stacy Ruiz and Patty Simon, who have worked there for 15-plus years.

"I've been extremely lucky to have such dedicated people," he said. "They share my philosophy and they see that the work they do directly affects the future of the business."

Davidson is encouraging former Patterson's employees from the last 50 years to stop in and visit during the anniversary.

He said he can recall about 100 or so people who have worked there. Some were high school and college students. Some used the job as a "stepping stone" to become pharmacists or pharmacy technicians.

Davidson believes it would be good to see some friendly old faces again and have a homecoming of sorts.

During its five decades, Patterson Prescription Pharmacy has consistently worked to help make Oxford a better place by donating to fund-raisers, sports teams, school groups, community events, charities and service clubs.

"I think it's important to give back to the community," Davidson said. "I think you get as much out of that as you give by meeting people and (creating) a positive community to live in."

In 2008, the Rotary Club of Oxford presented Davidson with its G.E. Meads Award for exemplifying the club's motto "Service Above Self" through his significant and numerous contributions to the community.

Looking back over his 20 years as a business owner, Davidson is glad he ultimately decided to buy the store from Patterson. He originally didn't want to do it because he was only interested in being a pharmacist, not an entrepreneur.

But then Davidson thought about all the good he could do running an independent pharmacy his way and how much he could help patients. That convinced him to make the leap from employee to owner.

"That's where I get my satisfaction knowing that, at the end of the day, we've helped a few people," he said. "It's nice to do something you enjoy. You know every day when you go to work, it will be challenging, but it will also be interesting. It's been a lot of fun."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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