2010-02-11 / News

Island pharmacy celebrates 33 years of service

By Holly Benton

Pam Shepard and her brother, Tim Baker Pam Shepard and her brother, Tim Baker At a time when independent pharmacies are struggling, Jamestown resident and local pharmacy owner Tim Baker finds meaning in his work – and he appreciates the connection he has with his customers.

“We’re going to know you, we’re going to care about you and really do the personal things,” he said.

Home to 16 part-time and fulltime employees, including two full-time and one part-time pharmacist, three technicians and six student interns, Baker’s Pharmacy maintains a close relationship with island residents.

Though these are tough times for small, independent businesses, Baker’s has found a way to remain competitive. The pharmacy is one of eight Healthmart-associated pharmacies in the state.

Healthmart, a national franchise developed by the world’s largest international drug wholesaler, McKesson Corporation, was created to aid independent pharmacies. Healthmart allows Baker to participate in more pharmacy benefit plans, purchase merchandise through buying groups and also makes advertising easier, he said.

“Healthmart allows me to do things that I certainly wouldn’t be able to do as just ‘Baker’s Pharmacy,’” he said. “It allows me to provide services for our patients and customers that I may have been excluded from.”

Healthmart, coupled with Jamestown’s cooperative community, ensures that Baker’s business continues to profit. His affiliation with Healthmart, he said, allows him to sell merchandise that competes on pricing with corporateowned pharmacies and allows customers to special order items whenever necessary.

Baker graduated from the University of Rhode Island’s College of Pharmacy in 1975 and opened Baker’s Pharmacy in 1977.

He talked about the resistance that independent pharmacies have met when competing with corporate owned pharmacies, such as CVS and Walgreens.

“It’s hard to survive because of the competition,” Baker said. “But first of all, we’re going to care about you. Second, we’re going to know you. Third, we’ll know what you’re taking, and we’ll advise you on how to take it.”

Baker said that McKesson Corporation delivers to the pharmacy five days a week, so he can special order anything for his customers, anytime.

“If we don’t have it, we can have it tomorrow,” he said. “And the neat thing about Jamestown is we don’t try to duplicate services, we all try to work together on inventory.”

Baker’s sister, Pam Shepard, has worked at the pharmacy since it opened and is currently the overall manager at the store. In charge of bookkeeping, front store merchandising and accounting, Shepard has been invaluable to the pharmacy over the years, helping to ensure that Baker’s prices remain competitive.

“Our prices are very comparable, sometime better,” she said. “Our wholesalers and distributors run programs ensuring our rates.”

Baker’s Pharmacy works closely with the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy, consistently employing student interns and working hard to pass along the store’s work ethic and philosophy to students.

“We ideally want them to think about owning their own independent pharmacy when they graduate,” Baker said. “There are only 30 independent pharmacies now and when I opened my store in 1977, there were 130. In the last 30 years, most independents have gotten bought out by either CVS or Brooks, which became Rite Aid.”

Baker said the pharmacy business has seen many changes, especially in insurance and technology.

With the federal government pushing the majority of businesses to convert to electronic prescribing and insurance companies altering their policies each year, Baker said he works hard to make sure that his pharmacy advances technologically, but still maintains a traditional relationship with customers.

“We try to really help patients figure out what’s going on with their insurance,” he said. “We’ve been spending crazy amounts of time to straighten everything out. These are things we can do as an independent pharmacy. My phone number’s in the book, if people desperately need something, I can help them.”

The Baker’s Pharmacy client base has changed over the years, as Jamestown’s population has risen from 2,500 in 1977 to around 6,000 and includes more affluent, year-round residents, he said.

“Thirty-three years ago, 10% of business was insurance companies and 90% of people paid cash,” Baker said. “Now, 5% pay cash and 95% have insurance.”

When asked what aspect of the current health system he would like to see changed, Baker said he would like to see the whole system more electronically streamlined for the benefit of the patient.

“One of the issues for me as a pharmacist is, I don’t know what you’re getting treated for,” he said. “Everyone should have a permanent ID number and a card you can scan, so I would know what your diagnosis is and tell you how to take your medicine properly. You’d eliminate all the hassle every time you go to a new doctor or switch insurance companies. It would be seamless.”

On the board of directors for the Jamestown Chamber of Commerce and president of the Jamestown Medical Fund, Baker’s sense of community and commitment to Jamestown’s residents have been the keys to his success, he said.

“We try to really help patients,” he said.

Return to top