After 54 years, a longtime White Rock business has changed hands.
Ed Reid – owner of the Pharmasave that got its start in 1961 as R. Drug Store Ltd. – officially handed over the reins of the 15321 16 Ave. store to Rexall on Jan. 23.
“Sadly, I accepted the offer,” Reid said Monday, reflecting on the sale that occurred after “at least a year” of negotiations.
It marks the end of an era for Reid.
His father, Mike, opened the original store in Central Plaza, at North Bluff and Johnston roads. Reid – after “sweeping floors, marking stock, washing windows” for Barber Drug Co. in Chilliwack, then working for Cunningham Drugs – started helping out a year later, after graduating from UBC’s Faculty of Pharmacy.
“For a while, we were the only father and son pharmacy team in B.C.”
He bought the business a few years later.
“I was 25 years old and I bought the company – on time,” the Ocean Park resident chuckled, during an interview at the mall’s Pelican Rouge Coffee Shop.
At the time, the strip mall was home to a hardware store and sundry other merchants, and the drug store was situated right about the middle of them all, Reid said.
Much changed over the years, from the landscape – “when we first came in here, this across the street was all trees,” Reid said, gesturing to the expanse of retail stores that now operate on the other side of North Bluff Road – to the style of vehicles parked in the lot, the store’s location in the mall itself, and, of course, those doing business there.
That list has included a doctors’ office – which moved to the Hilltop Medical medical building in 1980, with Reid following – laundromat, shoe store, beauty salon, Safeway and a CIBC, to name a few.
In 1965, Reid branched out to open a pharmacy in Ocean Park – a location his dad took over in 1968 – and then, in 1975, added a photo mart to the Central Plaza equation, an addition Reid says “changed the whole public attitude toward” that part of the business, which had been operating as a separate entity in space that is now home to the TD Bank.
Around 1981, the Pharmasave organization was born; the product of an amalgamation that included Western Drug Mart. Reid was a founding member.
While business was good for a while, things started to change as drug marts were opened within larger stores, including Safeway and Save-on-Foods. But, Reid noted, that didn’t hurt pharmacies as much as the government’s decision to start allowing discounted dispensing fees.
“It destroyed everything we worked for,” Reid said, explaining that independent pharmacists could ill-afford to discount their rates. A more fair option would have been to discount drug prices, he said.
“It would’ve been a level playing field,” he said. “The customers were happy to pay less, but it was destroying the independent pharmacies.
“That was the end of us. Coming up to 1990, we were losing big money in that store.”
Reid sold the Central Plaza store in 1991.
Shortly after, the Ocean Park Safeway added a drug store; the hit to Reid’s business was immediate.
“The very first month, the impact was about $35,000 down in sales,” he said. “I said, I’m not going through this again.”
He sold that store in 1995.
Reid said he’d had plans to modernize his Hilltop location and add a travel-health component, but made the difficult decision to sell instead.
“We’ve had very good staff,” he said. “Most of them will continue on with Rexall.”
As for Reid – who, over the years, has also played key roles in such organizations as the Fraser Valley Soccer Association, Three Kings Chess Club, Semiahmoo SunRunners and Peace Portal Alliance Church, and remains a licensed pharmacist – exactly what the future holds beyond plans to travel remains to be seen.
“We started here, in this centre, in 1961. Pharmacy is all I’ve known.”