Gregg’s Pharmacy is celebrating 60 years in business.
Started by brothers Ernie and the late Jim Gregg, the pharmacy first opened in downtown Oakland on Aug. 21, 1961.
“I worked for Englander’s Pharmacy for about a year, and then left and went to Steubenville, Ohio, and worked for a major drug company,” Ernie Gregg said.
In the meantime, when visiting Oakland on weekends, many people in the community, such as physicians and bankers, encouraged the brothers to open their own pharmacy.
“We decided to be partners,” Gregg said. “Jim had a position as a pharmacist and was gong to keep working. We didn’t know if we were going to make it, and we needed an income.”
The new pharmacy opened on a Monday, and on Friday, the two brothers were working late there.
“A couple physicians from Terra Alta came to tell us that the pharmacy in Terra Alta was going to be sold or closed,” Gregg said. “If they didn’t sell by Labor Day, they were gong to close it, and the people in Terra Alta were concerned about not having a pharmacy.”
The two men looked into it, and by the next day at noon, they had purchased the pharmacy.
“My brother Jim — it was his decision,” Ernie Gregg said. “He thought I was more established here, so I’d stay here and he’d go to Terra Alta. And we did.”
He said they were fortunate that things took off right away with the new business. It helped that he had gotten to know some of the medical staff at the hospital previously.
“It seemed like we had a lot of after-hours calls and I took them, and they appreciated that fact, and those were some of the people who encouraged me to do our own pharmacy,” he said. “And after we opened our own pharmacy, for many years we continued doing that — frequent night calls. I always thought that someone who had a child with an earache at 2 in the morning, waiting until 9 the next morning was not very good.”
By the early ‘90s, the pharmacy was outgrowing the small rental space. The limited parking was becoming more of an issue and a need for a drive-thru was evident.
The current location at 20 N. Third St. became available, and the Greggs purchased it and put up the new building in 1993.
Ernie’s son, Fred, and Fred’s wife, Carol, took over as owners of the Oakland pharmacy in 2003 and the Terra Alta location in 2008.
“Carol has been here for 35 years, so she’s been a big part of the evolution,” Fred Gregg said. “She came to work for Dad when our first child was born.”
She currently serves as the manager and CFO and her husband is the CEO.
“We are unique in that most independent pharmacies are owned by pharmacists who have to also fill prescriptions and run the business side of it,” Fred Gregg said. “We think we’re kind of fortunate in that we, not being pharmacists, can run the business side of it and let our pharmacists just worry about caring for our patients. And I think that frees them up to concentrate on what they do best and it allows us to do the things that we hope keep us on the cutting edge and front and center as to what’s happening in the pharmacy world.”
He noted that because the business is a locally owned independent pharmacy, it offers a more personal touch.
“We feel that we know our patients more intimately,” Fred Gregg said. “They know us and that allows for a higher level of patient care. Our job is not to see how much we can sell you but how much better we can make your health and wellness.”
One service offered by the pharmacy is repackaging of prescriptions into medication boxes to help patients keep track of multiple medications that must be taken every day.
The pharmacy also offers hospital and medical supplies, a service which has also expanded over the years.
“Because we’re a local independent, we’re extremely willing and we desire to partner in our own community — with Hospice, with Cindy’s Fund, we support our schools,” Fred Gregg said. “We do everything we can in conjunction with the health department, with the hospital. We feel like that’s a role that an independent pharmacy should play in their community and we’ve always tried to be a willing and energetic partner in that capacity with as many different folks in our community as possible.”
Ernie Gregg agreed.
“That’s really important,” he said. “It’s not self-serving, it’s self-sustaining. You try to make the community you live in a better place, and that’s not hyperbole, that’s a reality.”
The third generation of Greggs is currently involved in the business, as well.
“We’re very fortunate that our children have been able to step in here,” Fred Gregg said. “Two of our children became pharmacists and our son married a pharmacist, so they all have varying roles here.
“So obviously, we’re proud of the past 60 years and we have high hopes for the next 60 years,” he said.
In addition, the Greggs credit their staff members for their longevity as well. This includes 19 employees in Oakland and nine in Terra Alta.
“In this day and age with the high turnover rates, we are very lucky that we have a great staff and a lot of them have been here for a long time,” Fred Gregg said. “So we feel like the continuity of our staff has also made it easier for us to hit the standards that we have for patient care.”
In Oakland, Ida Meyers, tech, has been there for 36 years. Others include Matt Rhoten, pharmacist, 24 years; Carl Cathell and Crystal Spaid, pharmacists, 13 years; Ricky Hamilton, “do everything guy” who makes deliveries and does other jobs, 12 years; and Deb Shumaker, tech, 12 years.
In Terra Alta, Nancy Kelley, manager, has been there 43 years; Tom Henline, pharmacist, 18 years, and Bonnie Loughrie, tech, 23 years.
Looking toward the future, Fred Gregg said they feel it’s time for a facelift, so a store renovation is one of the first things on the list in Oakland.
“When we started, I was 25 years old,” Ernie Gregg said. “At that age, you think you’re invincible. No fear. You just plunge in. I probably never thought this far ahead. It’s been good. The community has been good to us, really, and I think the path that we’re on, we should be here another 60 years.”