Prescription drug store returns to Kewaunee with Hometown Pharmacy opening
KEWAUNEE – The short-lived road trips to fill prescriptions are now a thing of the past for Kewaunee residents.
That's because Kewaunee Hometown Pharmacy held a grand opening Wednesday, Sept. 18, complete with area dignitaries and a ribbon cutting, after a soft opening Sept. 3.
The city was without a pharmacy after the local Shopko Hometown discount department store and its full-service pharmacy closed May 5, part of the now-defunct, Green Bay-based retail chain's liquidation.
For the four months since, residents who need prescription medications have had to get them filled out of town. The nearest pharmacies are about 10 miles away in Algoma (also a Hometown Pharmacy), 30 miles away in Sturgeon Bay or 25 to 30 miles off in the Green Bay or Manitowoc areas.
Having a local drug store matters to a smaller community with a number of older residents, Mayor Sandi Christman said. She noted that such a population may be prescribed maintenance drugs that need to be taken on a daily basis, requiring more frequent trips to the pharmacy.
"A lot of people were displaced, so to speak," Christman said. "They didn't want to drive to Algoma or Green Bay. They wanted a pharmacy in this city … It's important because a lot of middle-age and senior people are on routine medications. It's a big hurt to force them to drive elsewhere for their pharmaceutical needs."
"A lot of them don't have the transportation to go outside the city," Cassie Jelinek, administrative assistant with the Kewaunee Area Chamber of Commerce, added. "Even going to Algoma can be a challenge. We definitely, definitely needed this here."
According to the company website, Hometown has more than 40 independent pharmacies across Wisconsin, run in partnership with a local pharmacist who co-owns individual stores with the company.
The stores not only fill prescriptions, but also carry over-the-counter drugs and health care products, from cough drops and supplements to durable goods like crutches and splints. They also carry greeting cards and gifts, including a number of maritime-themed items at the Kewaunee site.
"At Hometown, we're proactive (about health)," said Sarah Bartel, co-owner and partner pharmacist for the Kewaunee and Algoma Hometown locations. "We want to be more about keeping healthy."
The Kewaunee resident was a pharmacist with Aurora Health Care in Kewaunee, then Algoma, through 2017, when she opened the Algoma Hometown store.
Bartel decided to pursue a Kewaunee location when she saw the need for it after Shopko's closure. She approached the city, which then was considering three other pharmacy companies.
"I thought we could just expand our service in Algoma," Bartel said, "but it pretty quickly became evident we needed a pharmacy in Kewaunee."
She said the response from the community has been strong in the first two weeks the store has been open, as well as during the grand opening.
"Very positive," Bartel said. "Lots of people are just coming in to check things out. A lot of them were going to Green Bay."
Christman said the idea of local ownership played a role in the city's decision to work with Bartel. She said all those interested in opening a pharmacy received equal consideration and were offered the building Kewaunee Hometown now occupies, the former Kewaunee Lakeshore Pizza on Milwaukee Street's downtown waterfront, but she saw Bartel was "100-percent committed."
"That's any business — when you have skin in the game, you know there's commitment," Christman said. "Knowing it was (Bartel) behind this, we knew it was going to be a go."
"This was the best fit for the community," Jelinek said. "They were serving Algoma, so they were already filling in when Shopko closed down. They know what people are looking for, they've been here for years. I think it's a great testament to our county and our city."
The cards-and-gifts part of the business also matters because those items, especially finer gifts, aren't available elsewhere in the city, besides in the Lighthouse Gift Shop at the Coho Motel.
"That's huge, because there's no other place in town right now for quality giftware," Christman said.
"We have very little for retail, so (the pharmacy) adds to that," Jelinek said.
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected].
Kewaunee Hometown Pharmacy is at 223 Milwaukee St. It is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. For more information, call 920-310-1616 or visit hometownpharmacyrx.com or facebook.com/KewauneeHometownPharmacy.
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This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Prescription drug store returns to Kewaunee with Hometown Pharmacy opening