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Managers for Benzer Pharmacy, the former Town Drug, in downtown Yellow Springs, say the local drug store is recovering after issues with timely drug orders prompted concerns this past fall. Pictured are Benzer Regional Manager for Ohio Chris Lenz, left, and local Manager-Pharmacist Jeremy Nestor discussing store records. (Photo by Carol Simmons)

Pharmacy addresses retail issues

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The shelves at Benzer Pharmacy, formerly Town Drug, are being restocked, and medication is reportedly coming in daily, after dwindling merchandise and delays in drug orders raised concerns about the drug store’s health and prompted the resignation of some key employees this past fall.

The local pharmacy has turned a corner toward renewed stability, according to Christopher Lenz, Benzer’s Ohio-based regional manager.

“The issue’s fixed; we’re up and running,” Lenz said in a recent interview.

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Problems at the pharmacy came to a head in October, when the shop’s full-time pharmacist-manager, Sharon Emery, and part-time pharmacist, Emma Robinow, both quit. While Emery declined to speak publicly about her resignation, Robinow, a Yellow Springs native who had been with the pharmacy for five years, said she left because she didn’t feel she had the necessary resources to meet the prescription needs of the drug store’s customers. At the same time, some local customers began sharing stories on social media about difficulties getting their prescriptions filled there.

Lenz pointed to a conflict with Benzer’s contracted wholesaler as the source of the problems, which he said have abated with the end of the company’s contract Nov. 29 and the subsequent switch to a new wholesaler.

The conflict arose, he said, after a growth-focused Benzer, a privately owned company based in Tampa, Fla, purchased 11 additional drug stores in Ohio last year, essentially “growing from 71 to 82 overnight.” In addition to the 82 corporate-owned stores, the company has 34 franchise locations, all across 29 states, according to its website.

The chain, founded in 2009, acquired the former Town Drug, at the corner of Xenia Avenue and Glen Street, in January, and changed the pharmacy’s signs to the Benzer logo this past summer. A drug store has been in operation at the downtown location nearly continuously for about 90 years.

Lenz said that Benzer’s new acquisitions “caused an issue with our primary wholesaler,” which he declined to name. He said Benzer sought a higher line of credit to cover the increased number of drug orders from the new stores, and the wholesaler denied the request.

“It was just a matter of credit lines and cash flows,” Lenz said. “We were a young company with too much growth.”

Benzer is now contracted with the Amerisource Bergen Corp., or ABC, for its nongeneric drugs and over-the-counter health care products.

“They’ve been wonderful to us,” Lenz said.

“Generic drugs were never an issue,” Lenz added, because they’re supplied by a secondary wholesaler that Benzer owns.

The regional manager said he understands the frustration that the store’s former pharmacists, Emery and Robinow, felt.

“Sharon (as manager) was thrown into a difficult situation,” he said.

Benzer may be a chain with an eye to additional growth, but its focus is on community pharmacy, Lenz asserted.

Its goal, he said, is to enable local pharmacies to act as independently as possible and respond to the unique needs of their individual communities.

“This store  is the only one to have Abdallah Chocolates,” he noted, while a Benzer pharmacy in Dresden, Ohio, handles dog tag sales for Muskingum County.

“This is Yellow Springs’ pharmacy,” he said of the former Town Drug, adding that all the employees live in town or nearby.

“They have a dedication to this store and a dedication to this town,” he said.

Jeremy Nestor, the new manager-pharmacist, who replaced Emery in October, lives with his wife and two daughters in Beavercreek.

“Jeremy is fantastic,” Lenz said.

Aditi Ghose is the part-time pharmacist, working one to two days a week.

In an interview just before the holidays, amidst a steady stream of customers, Nestor said he’s happy to see the local pharmacy regain its footing.

“I remember having a couple of mild panic attacks,” he said of his first week in late October.

A native of West Virginia and a graduate of West Virginia University’s School of Pharmacy, Nestor worked in Fairborn for about 10 years — first at CVS; then Kmart, where he was the pharmacy manager; and then Kroger. He was most recently at the Kroger pharmacy on Indian Ripple Road in Beavercreek before Lenz hired him in Yellow Springs.

“Now that we’re getting drugs regularly, it’s getting to a point where we are running smoothly,” he said.

“I’m happy to be here,” he added.

The biggest task now, he said, is getting to know the local customers and “trying to figure out what we need to keep in stock.”

Robert Sweet, of Clifton, who came in to fill a prescription and get a shingles shot, said he was pleased with the care he receives at the local pharmacy and hadn’t been negatively affected by the changes.

“I’ve been coming here for years,” Sweet said. “They’re great.”

Regional manager Lenz said that the pharmacy is exploring ways to further serve its customers and has plans to introduce a free delivery service within the next month.

The service is already offered at some other Benzer locations, he said.

“So many of our patients can’t make it to the pharmacy,” Lenz said.

Local delivery, which will extend out 25 miles, will be handled by a Columbus-based third-party business called ScriptDrop.

“As soon as they find a driver, we’re in business,” he said.

Lenz and Nestor both said they want to meet customers’ needs, and they hope  people will let the store’s staff know what they want.

“We’re just looking forward to growing,” Lenz said.

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