30 Year Entrepreneurial Adventure

Hard to believe as it is, but it’s our 30 year anniversary.  The doors of Stafford Pharmacy opened on a Monday morning July 15, 1985.

A sprawling 980 sq. ft. space in the Stafford Plaza, at the corner of Stafford Drive and Saint Edward Boulevard North.  We squeezed in between a pizza place and a video rental store.  Cliff Helm and his family operated the pizza place, while Brad Whyte managed the video shop.  It was a great community to be a part of, with Alma Lynn’s Hair Stylist two doors down, owned and operated by Alma Lynn (Zacher) Morcom, Alberta Meat & Grocery, owned and operated by the Crighton family the major tenant back then, managed by Bob and Ron Crighton and later Bob’s son Scott joined his dad managing the business.  And around the corner from Alberta Meat & Grocery several more merchants of various types rounded our merchant community.   A tanning shop, laundromat,  Mar-Rene’s Kitchen and even a dry cleaning drop off for a short time.  And in the middle of the parking lot was a small gas bar – a Shell before it closed up and before that it was the Canadian chain, Turbo!

Heady days they were!  And there I was,  the pharmacist with five years of experience working in Edmonton and in Lethbridge, that after driving past the Plaza day after day, thinking it would make a great location for a community pharmacy.   Being a recent graduate of the University of Lethbridge’s Management faculty, I had the tools to assess the merits of opening a small business at the location.  I visited the development office to investigate the city’s long term plans for the north end of Stafford Drive.  Some might remember my surveys done at the mall, with the merchants helping me out by handing out the surveys and collecting the completed ones.

Each night I would drop by and gather up the sheets, tally the results and with my Apple IIe and an early spreadsheet version, quickly learned how to organize all this data in a meaningful way that might give me the information I needed to make some key decisions.  Should I or shouldn’t I open now?  How big should I go?  What products should I be offering? How will I make it through the first year, second year, third year?  And where will I get the balance of my financing needs?

I cashed in Canada Savings Bonds and pretty much emptied my savings, and made some key phone calls including one to Merv Haderer, who was then the National regional rep.   Most people today don’t recognize that name, but National Wholesale became Medis Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare, which eventually became McKesson Canada!   Just as important as establishing a lease agreement or adequate interim financing, I needed the startup support of a pharmaceutical wholesaler and Merv, bless him –  believed in my plan and helped me get through the administrative hurdles to establish a new account.  We continue to use McKesson as our ‘logistical support partner’ today, 30 years later.

With my business plans, my budgets, a vision for a pharmacy practice that would focus on patient care, with the support from family and friends I decided to strike out on this entrepreneurial adventure.    And the rest as they say, is just history!

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