Stafford Pharmacy & Home Healthcare is an independently owned and operated company located in Lethbridge, Alberta Canada. The company opened its doors at 9:00am, July 15th 1985, located at Bay #8, 1475 Saint Edward Boulevard North in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. A mere 970 square feet of retail space that included the dispensary, three selling aisles, a checkout counter, very small back storage area and one washroom. No different than many other small business startups, this represented personal savings, a cashing in of Canada Savings Bonds, and a credit line not easily obtained. A family business by every description, my wife, my sisters, my sister-in-law, and parents all lent a hand in some aspect of the business startup. Everything from placing product orders, deciding on paint colour and carpets; shelving and counters, everyone gravitated to a task.
So, on that mid-July morning, Stafford Pharmacy came to life. All that you might expect in a small community pharmacy found a place in those 970 square feet. From cough & cold products to greeting cards & wrap; creams, lotions, shampoo, and baby care – all fit neatly within the three aisles and six end aisles. It’s really amazing what you can do with a good sense of organization and a good dose of motivation. We almost miss those heady days of the new business venture. The excitement, the adrenalin rush and the naïve optimism that we would be successful, that we would see growth of our new business. No one explained to us until a year later that only 50% of new business ventures fail after the first year and another 50% fall by the wayside by the fifth year. In hindsight, it’s better that we didn’t know.
Between our launch in 1985 and today, we went through several significant expansions and renovations. The first was in 1987 we expanded into the adjoining space (970 sq ft.), which was North of our current location and was the home of a video rental business owned by Quality Holdings and managed by Brad Whyte. Brad was instrumental in negotiations that saw the principle owners of the Mall, Del Palmer; Bob and Ron Crighton; essentially make space available at the north extension of the mall, which allowed the video business to move out of the adjoining Bay #7, into the then Bay #4, right next door to Alberta Meat and Grocery.
The leased Bay #9, which was the end bay at the time, was the home of Sarducci’s Pizza. After a change in the Pizza Restaurant’s ownership and a final decision to close, a second expansion opportunity became available in 1989. This second expansion gave the necessary floor space to expand the home healthcare department. Laura Shaskin (Igor’s sister) joined the business venture full time, leaving behind her nursing position at the Lethbridge Regional Hospital, Intensive Care Unit. A major step and a bold step for Laura as she joined the ranks of professionals in business. This move established our intention to pursue home healthcare seriously and to make it a significant focus of the business. With this focus, Stafford Pharmacy & Home Healthcare became our new trade name.
There was no doubt that this business division saw significant growth as it soon became necessary to approach the Mall with a request for additional space. By now, the Mall is fully leased and there are no further leasing opportunities. Therefore, the request for more space required that the Mall owners now add new leasable space to the existing Mall structure. With that decision, Wesbridge Construction began an addition of approximately 1000 sq ft to the entire west facing side of the pharmacy. This construction began in September 1993 and was completed just days before Christmas that same year. This would be our final physical addition and allowed for the moving of single entry doors, all on the West frontage of the store, to be reduced to two doors on a new North exposure. No more separate entrys/exits that made entry into the business difficult during the many westerly windy days.
At the same time it allowed for the placement of a new, two-till checkout counter and a major expansion to the dispensary space. As well, home healthcare received desperately needed customer service counter space and two offices – one of which was a designated fitting room for private fittings of post-mastectomy prostheses, compression stockings and a growing variety of supports and braces.
Although 1993 saw the last physical space addition, there has been constant renovation to the existing space, as the area continues to better accommodate the products and services that are being delivered. A significant renovation was completed in 2010 with the completion of changes to the dispensary; the addition of two semi-private consultation stations and the isolation of sensitive compounding procedures within a glassed in compounding lab for both non-sterile and sterile preparations.
Of course, in keeping with our previous history of continuous improvements, new renovations were already being planned, with our main administration office to receive a face lift and plans for a significantly larger compounding work area. Our compounding lab expansion was completed over the course of almost two years, with the final phase being completed in mid-2014. Although, some of our equipment was still being received into the 2015 year and we are told that because of the continuous changes to compounding standards for both non-sterile and sterile preparations, we shouldn’t put the hammers and saws away just yet. Although this 2014 expansion more than doubled our lab space, the new standards may require further upgrades to our physical layout as well as the need for new equipment and technology.
Although the focus has been on our physical expansions, Stafford Pharmacy & Home Healthcare has enjoyed recognition that says there has also been a focus on function and performance. Beginning in 1986, Stafford Pharmacy as well as pharmacist/owner Igor Shaskin received recognition from Health Canada and the then Federal Minister of Health, Jake Epp; for discontinuing the sale of all tobacco products by Stafford Pharmacy. Today, the sale of tobacco products in Alberta pharmacies has been banned via legislation, this move to remove tobacco sales was an example of the foresight and the leadership direction management and staff have shown throughout its short history.
Although there have been many awards and recognition given to pharmacist/owner as well as Stafford Pharmacy & Home Healthcare, one notable recognition was gained in 2008 with the awarding of the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce Award for Customer Service. This award is most important because it recognizes staff and management’s efforts to provide exceptional customer service. Then in 2010, pharmacist owner Igor Shaskin was recognized for not only the promotion of his profession but also his participation in the community, with the Bowl of Hygeia Award given to a deserving pharmacist in each province, each year. This award was originally sponsored by the A.H. Robins company recognizing pharmacists since 1963, with that tradition being continued by Pfizer Consumer Healthcare.
It is now the close of 2015 and the beginning of 2016, which means Stafford Pharmacy & Home Healthcare can look back at 30 years of business and service to the community. At the same time, we say hello to the next era which we hope will be another 30 years of growth, prosperity and continued strengthening of community connections.
Thank you to the Lethbridge community for the continued support, to the employees who have given their efforts and their skills to making it possible for so many people to call Stafford Pharmacy & Home Healthcare, their pharmacy!
Igor Shaskin B.Sc. (Pharm), RPh., B.Mgt.
Stafford Pharmacy & Home Healthcare