Local pharmacy owner completes deal to open new drug store in downtown Lawrence

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

The former bank branch building at 1046 Vermont Street is shown on May 3, 2022. Lawrence-based Sigler Pharmacy has completed a deal to convert the building and its drive-thru lane into a new pharmacy for downtown, which currently does not have a drug store.

It has been almost 13 years since downtown Lawrence has had a true drug store, but it looks like that wait soon will be over.

The owner of Lawrence-based Sigler Pharmacy has confirmed to me that he’s completed a deal to purchase the former Capitol Federal branch bank building at 11th and Vermont streets to convert into a full-service pharmacy.

“It is almost perfect,” said Jeff Sigler, owner of Sigler Pharmacy. “It has all the positive things I’m looking for and it is still downtown. That is hard to find.”

Sigler should know. He said having a downtown pharmacy was in his original business plan when he opened his pharmacy business — he has two other locations in Lawrence and one in Johnson County — in 2005.

At that time, downtown still had a pharmacy, Round Corner Drug. But that business closed in the summer of 2009 when it sold its operations to the large drug store chain Walgreens, which chose not to keep the downtown operation open.

Sigler has been actively looking in the downtown for years, but he said he decided early on that he did not want a space on Massachusetts Street, due to concerns about parking and an inability to have a drive-thru.

He became excited about the former Capitol Federal building in 2018 when Capitol Federal Savings announced plans to purchase Capital City Bank. That merger allowed Capitol Federal to close its old, small branch at the northeast corner of 11th and Vermont streets because Capital City Bank already had a larger, newer branch in downtown Lawrence.

But Sigler said a deal was tough to come by because Capitol Federal was still using the building at 11th and Vermont streets for some call center operations. But recently, local commercial real estate agent Allison Vance Moore put together an unexpected deal. Capitol Federal was interested in a vacant piece of land near Sixth Street and Folks Road that Sigler had purchased in 2020 to build a larger west Lawrence pharmacy.

“We basically traded for that building,” Sigler said.

Capitol Federal has not announced what it plans to do with the vacant lot, which is at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and Folks Road in the Bauer Farm development.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Sigler Pharmacy plans to open a new pharmacy in the former Capitol Federal Savings branch building at 11th and Vermont streets.

Sigler said the old bank branch building is almost a perfect fit for his plans because it has its own parking and it already has a drive-thru lane. The biggest question, he said, is how he’s going to fill all the space in the building.

The location will feature a full-service pharmacy counter, meaning people will be able to get their prescriptions filled at the location. It also will carry some of the more common over-the-counter type of medicines. But there probably still will be a significant amount of space left for other purposes, Sigler said.

He said the space could be used to carry some other basic household items, cleaners, toiletries and other such sundries, given that downtown doesn’t have a dollar store or other general store retailer.

But Sigler said it also will be tempting to have a food component to the business. The could be a soda fountain type of operation or even a bit more advanced than that.

“Old-time pharmacies had little grills,” Sigler said. “I always thought that would be something cool to do.”

A food component probably would get a lot of interest, but it is the pharmacy and drugstore component that makes this a unique, and potentially game-changing development for downtown.

The No. 1 wish list development for downtown has long been a grocery store. But a well-stocked drug store also has been very high on the list, especially if a grocery store isn’t in the cards.

City leaders have thought a drug store development could be helpful in bringing more people to live in downtown. There have been numerous downtown apartment projects built in the last decade, but there’s been a thought that downtown needs more services to attract even greater numbers of residents. A drug store that’s within walking distance of downtown residential developments is one example of those types of services. While talk of a downtown grocery store has hit a bit of a lull, it will be interesting to see how much of general store component this drug store can be in downtown.

Sigler said he’s hired an architect to begin working on renovation plans for the project. He hasn’t yet received a timeline for when the project could be completed, but he said he hopes to be in operation at the site by the end of the year.

“My hope is people are looking for something like this in downtown,” he said. “There are more and more people living in downtown, so I think they will be.

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