ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- At the same time that Wegmans Food Markets here opened a high-profile restaurant adjacent to its Pittsford, N.Y., store last month, the retailer more quietly launched a stand-alone pharmacy in Downington, Pa. Both are firsts for the retailer.
The pharmacy is located in the same shopping center as a closed-down Phar-Mor location from which Wegmans had acquired the customer prescription files. The stand-alone store's presence allowed the supermarket company to build a customer base before a 120,000-square-foot Wegmans supermarket opens in the same shopping plaza next April, according to Jessica Lowe, one of the pharmacists at the new Wegmans pharmacy location.
"Since Phar-Mor is going out of business, Wegmans saw an opportunity to have its name put out there before it opened its [traditional] supermarket in the area," she said. This stand-alone store is a unique circumstance, she said; it is not part of a larger test for the retailer.
The pharmacy takes up a former Party City space in the Brandywine Square Plaza, a few storefronts down from the old Phar-Mor store and roughly 200 yards away from the future Wegmans supermarket space. It was not clear what would become of the pharmacy once the supermarket opens. A Wegmans' spokeswoman did not return calls for comment.
In a prepared statement, the future manager of the Downington supermarket, Blaine Forkell, said: "The opportunity presented itself when Phar-Mor closed its store in the plaza, and we acquired their prescription files. First and foremost, we needed to meet the pharmacy needs of those customers immediately. But it also seemed like a great way to introduce Wegmans to the Downington community, and show what great service we provide."
While the pharmacy's business so far is averaging half of what Phar-Mor's business was achieving, Lowe said, "we're doing great for a new pharmacy." The store averages 80 to 100 prescriptions per day, she added.
In addition to prescription-filling services, the Wegmans location offers over-the-counter medications, diabetic supplies and a limited assortment of health and beauty care items, she said.
Wegmans is matching Phar-Mor's prescription prices for the next three months for all former Phar-Mor customers, said Lowe, as a way to "retain customers and give a good representation of Wegmans." New Wegmans pharmacy customers must adhere to Wegmans prices, however.
Customers can also request refills by telephone using Wegmans Smart Fill Service after they have been assigned an initial prescription number. New prescriptions can also be requested through the online service, according to a written statement by the retailer.
The pharmacy is staffed by four pharmacists, the company said in a statement, and is open seven days a week -- from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.
While a stand-alone supermarket pharmacy is not common for supermarket operators, it is not indicative of a larger trend, said Jim Wisner, president, Wisner Retail Marketing, Libertyville, Ill. "More pharmacies are going into supermarkets rather than being independent from supermarkets," he said.
Phar-Mor filed for Chapter 11 protection last year. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved the liquidation of the company's assets last July.