Jones closing local pharmacy

Published 10:05 pm Thursday, September 12, 2019

Bennett’s Creek Pharmacy owner S. Chris Jones has decided to close his business after 34 years.

Jones, 61, told his 17 employees in an emotional meeting on Monday night, he said Thursday afternoon. Store-closing signs went up in the windows of the store, located on Bridge Road in the Food Lion shopping center, later in the week, and many customers were sad to learn the news.

“He’s been our friend all these years,” said Martha Shirley, who said her family has been supporting the pharmacy since it was at its first location down the road. “The pharmacists are so sweet and so nice. It’s just the personal touch.”

Email newsletter signup

Many customers told stories about the relationships they had developed over the years and how the pharmacy had helped them when they needed it.

“This is where we trust that our pills are going through here,” said Susan Estes, who recalled when her family member was sick and couldn’t afford the medication, “Chris worked with him to get his medication.”

Christine Drakeford said she “couldn’t believe it” when she walked through the doors.

“My brain’s working, like, ‘What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do?’” she said.

Drakeford remembered when her mother was sick and confused, near the end of her life in 2008, she had separated her medications from their containers and spread them all out on a table. Not knowing what to do, Drakeford gathered up all of the pills and their bottles and took them to Bennett’s Creek Pharmacy, where Jones helped her get them all back into their correct containers.

“It’s such a personal feel here,” she said.

Jones said hearing all of the personal stories this week has been “really humbling.”

Jones started the pharmacy at age 27, following in his father’s footsteps. Several of his 17 full- and part-time employees have been with him almost ever since — the longest-serving one, Rana Weaver, had been there 30 years exactly on Thursday.

Jones said the decision to close the pharmacy was a difficult one, but economics left him no other choice. Insurance companies have exclusive agreements with pharmacies or force patients to get mail-order prescriptions; some large employers are starting their own pharmacies to reduce health-care costs; and reimbursements from public and private insurers are getting lower and lower.

“I’m not blaming anyone, but it’s the current environment,” Jones said. “I had always hoped to find another independent to come in and operate it, but the current environment doesn’t give any options in that regard.”

Jones said all of his employees will be taken care of. Walgreens has agreed to offer employment to any of his employees who want it.

“That was extremely important to me,” Jones said.

He also said Walgreens is purchasing his inventory of non-compounded drugs as well as the prescription files. Lawrence Pharmacy in Chesapeake, another independently owned pharmacy, will be purchasing the compounding side.

“I’m going to miss it,” Jones said. “This is all I’ve ever known. It’s going to be a real adjustment, but the one thing I do know: God is in control.”

The pharmacy will close Sept. 27, with prescriptions closing Sept. 24.