The ‘little pharmacy that could’ celebrates 10 years
When Lesley Blackman’s husband, Andrew, came home 10 years ago to say he’d found a place for her to open up a pharmacy, she wasn’t sure she wanted to do it.
He’d been encouraging her to start her own business, but she was hesitant. At the time, Blackman had four years’ experience as a pharmacist, having completed a gruelling 18-month process to attain Canadian certification after emigrating from South Africa. Yet, the idea of opening her own shop seemed daunting. Even hearing her husband enthuse about the spot in Estevan Village, she thought “Yeah, sure, whatever.”
But when she walked into the 500-squarefoot space, the seed was planted. “The size was perfect, an intimate little store. I knew I didn’t want cosmetics. I wanted it to be pharmacy-focused and health-oriented,” Blackman recalled.
She loved the black-and-white tile floor. A business loan was arranged and six weeks after the lease was signed, Estevan Pharmacy opened its doors on Nov. 20, 2000.
“I thought I didn’t know anything about running a business, but 10 years later we’re viable and still here,” Blackman said.
She credits her nine full and part-time staff, and the creation of strong relationships with clients and the neighbourhood with the pharmacy’s stability. “I tell people ‘if you need a loaf of bread and can’t get out, let us know.’”
Staff often deliver ginger ale to customers who are ill. Blackman has been known to help customers file medical reimbursement forms and even repair a cranky toaster.
Although the storefront stayed the same size, the Blackmans gained more space, about 600 sq. ft., to the rear and side of the shop after a video store closed down five years ago. Andrew’s computer business takes up some of the space and Blackman has added space for preparing blister packs and for compounding made-to-order medications.
She has also been instrumental in raising the profile of Estevan Village. Up until about two years ago, she put in long hours with other merchants to host street celebrations at Easter, in the summer, Halloween and at Christmas.
“I’ve been impressed with her enthusiasm and drive – she doesn’t take no for an answer,” said Rob Jennings, owner of Jennings Florist across the street.
Blackman has since backed away from some of the event organizing as her pharmacy responsibilities have increased. With provincial approval and training, she can now administer flu shots.
Estevan Pharmacy has also been chosen to take part in a provincial Ministry of Health pilot project that will see pharmacists taking on some health-care planning duties for which doctors have traditionally been responsible.
The Blackmans don’t have any children, but Lesley refers to the pharmacy as her first child. “We were told that three to five years is the time you put into a business to make sure it has the strength to carry on. I don’t believe that. I think you’re doing that all the time. You have to love, nurture, support and encourage it,” she said.