Archive for Friday, April 12, 1996

ROUND CORNER PROVES DOUBTING THOMASES WRONG

April 12, 1996

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A one-on-one relationship with customers helps keep Round Corner Drug Store in business amid changes in the pharmacy industry.

Before Tom Wilcox bought Round Corner Drug Store in 1985, an acquaintance told him that small pharmacies were a ``dead dinosaur'' in an age of chain drug stores and supermarket pharmacies.

Eleven years later, Wilcox says that Round Corner's continued success has proved his doubters wrong.

Round Corner Drug Store, 801 Mass., has survived in a booming community by offering a small-town flavor and maintaining a tradition of reliable service. Opened in 1855 by B.W. Woodward, Round Corner is believed to be the oldest pharmacy in Kansas.

Wilcox, owner and primary pharmacist at Round Corner, says that the key to the store's success is the personal relationship he forms with each of his customers.

``I think that people make a business,'' Wilcox said. ``There will always be a place for small businesses and service-oriented businesses, because we get to know people on a one-to-one basis.''

Wilcox maintains a nearly constant presence in the pharmacy. Although he does employ a part-time pharmacist, ``I'm here 60 hours a week,'' Wilcox said.

``Ninety-five percent of the time you call here, you get me.''

He claims that he has only taken two sick days in 11 years. Wilcox said that customers liked knowing who will be serving them every time they walk into the pharmacy because, over time, a relationship of trust and familiarity develops.

These relationships have helped ensure Round Corner's survival in an increasingly crowded market. Wilcox estimates that in the last four to five years, seven new pharmacies have opened in Lawrence. He describes the added competition as a mere ``blip on the screen'' of his store's financial well-being.

``They really haven't affected my business that much,'' Wilcox said.

However, Wilcox said that small pharmacies are being threatened by a growing mail-order drug business, which he describes as unfair competition.

Round Corner is one of 3,500 small drug stores that have filed a lawsuit against drug companies, alleging that the manufacturers are giving discounts to mail-order firms and managed-care insurers while raising prices for retailers.

Round Corner is affected by the same competition that forced the two Raney Drug Stores to close their doors in February after 46 years in business. Wilcox said that although his business may benefit, he regretted that Dick Raney had closed his stores.

``Dick is a really strong public servant, very generous with local organizations and clubs,'' Wilcox said. ``(The closing) is a great loss to Lawrence.''

Wilcox said that because Round Corner is a smaller business than the Raney Drug chain, it may be more ``fleet of foot'' and capable of withstanding the competition. Round Corner sells some front-end merchandise, such as greeting cards and cosmetics, but the success of the business is primarily based on filling prescriptions, Wilcox said.

But Wilcox believes that Round Corner is here to stay.

In the future, he would like to see the pharmacy's base of customers grow, but he has no plans to expand the store or move to a larger location. He says that he is content to continue doing the work he enjoys in a pharmacy that is filled with friends and neighbors.

``My goal is to hang on to every customer I have ever made and to make new customers every day,'' Wilcox said.

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