After nearly 15 years, downtown Lawrence once again has a drugstore; Sigler Pharmacy opens along Vermont Street

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Jeff Sigler, owner of the new Sigler Medical Arts Pharmacy, is pictured at the downtown store on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024.

Downtown Lawrence’s nearly 15 years without a pharmacy and drugstore ended a couple of weeks ago.

Already, you are starting to see downtown Lawrence change in small ways. One such small (but not trivial) way: toilet paper.

On Friday, while I was at the newly opened Sigler Medical Arts Pharmacy — located in the old Capitol Federal bank branch at 10th and Vermont streets — there was a man there who had walked the several blocks from his home near Ninth and Delaware to buy a package of toilet paper. Last month, that would have been a tough purchase to make in downtown.

The man went on to tell Jeff Sigler, the owner of the new pharmacy, how he also was looking forward to walking to get his prescriptions, rather than being at the mercy of whenever a delivery driver could bring them to his house.

That’s the type of customer Sigler had in mind when he reached a deal in May 2022 to take over the historic bank branch at 1046 Vermont St. A basic goal was simply to provide what Sigler considers a foundational service for any neighborhood.

“We are kind of in what I call a pharmacy desert,” Sigler said of downtown, which lost its last pharmacy in July 2009 when Round Corner Pharmacy closed.

That desert extends to items beyond just prescription drugs. It also has been challenging to get over-the-counter medications, toiletries, cleaning supplies and other common household items.

Sigler said the downtown pharmacy intends to meet some of those needs, though it will do so in a way that’s different from the big-box stores.

“We may not have 40 brands of shampoo, for example, but we’ll have four or five,” said Sigler, who has owned his own pharmacy business since 2005, operating two other stores in Lawrence and one in Lenexa.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Sigler Medical Arts Pharmacy, 1046 Vermont Street, is pictured on Feb. 9, 2024.

Sigler said the shop is currently building up its inventory of such products, and is still determining how many different products it wants to have. The shop’s shelves currently are heavy on over-the-counter medicines, toiletries, a few health and beauty items, some cleaning supplies and a small section of snacks and candy.

He said hearing from customers over the next several months about what they are looking for will play a big part in what else the store decides to stock. For instance, he said he’s considering a small cooler that would allow the shop to sell milk or other refrigerated essentials.

In time, he’s confident he’ll find the right mix, and he also thinks downtown Lawrence will have found a missing ingredient. Sigler thinks a pharmacy like his could be a key piece in helping spur more residential living options in downtown, which city leaders have identified as a strategy for keeping downtown more vibrant and diverse.

Full-time residents of downtown might be attracted to the district for its restaurants and boutiques, but many are going to want some basic services nearby. There is a full-service grocery store, a Dillons, on south Massachusetts Street, but that is 10 to 12 blocks away from most of the downtown area. Community leaders long have said downtown needs a grocery store to jumpstart more significant downtown residential projects. Sigler acknowledges his store won’t meet that need in full, but he thinks it could play a key role.

“I think it could help,” Sigler said. “It is not the grocery component, which has been discussed at length. But if we satisfy the nonperishable items, maybe a grocery store wouldn’t need as much space if it just dealt with food. It would kind of get back to the old-style separation of those business models.”

The pharmacy plans to have customers from outside of downtown as well, and already does. Sigler previously had purchased the Medical Arts Pharmacy from longtime Lawrence pharmacist Marvin Bredehoft. Sigler moved that pharmacy from its location on Maine Street near LMH Health. Many of that pharmacy’s customers have stayed with the business at its new downtown location.

Sigler said the North Lawrence, Old West Lawrence, East Lawrence and Oread neighborhoods all will be important customer bases for the shop. He said he specifically looked for a location off of Massachusetts Street because he didn’t want to compete for public parking with all the bars, restaurants and retailers on the main drag. The Vermont Street location has on-street parking, but also is located across the street from a city-owned lot at the Community Building, and about a half-block from a free two-hour city lot on Vermont Street.

Sigler also plans to take advantage of the drive-thru lane on the property from when the building was a bank. He said equipment is on order to reopen the drive-thru for quick prescription pick-ups.

Sigler said he’s been looking for a downtown location for a pharmacy for years. When plans were being proposed for a grocery store in the former Borders building, Sigler was involved as a potential pharmacy partner.

All told, Sigler said his original business plan that he created when opening Sigler Pharmacy in 2005 called for a downtown location. That was in part driven by his early years in the pharmacy business. He used to work at Raney Drug, which was at 921 Massachusetts St., where Rally House currently has a shop.

His experience there — plus a unique collection he owns — made him think that a drugstore could still work in downtown Lawrence. The collection is one of old medicine bottles, many of which have labels listing drugstores of days past.

“Almost every downtown corner had a drugstore at one point,” Sigler said.

Those days are long gone, as insurance practices have made the drugstore business less profitable, Sigler said, but he thinks downtown Lawrence is special enough that there’s room for one good drugstore to work.

“I’ve lived here for almost 45 years, and downtown is really important to me,” Sigler said. “I think it is what separates Lawrence from a lot of other communities.”

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

A collection of old medicine bottles is shown at Sigler Medical Arts Pharmacy in downtown Lawrence on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024.


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