February 7, 2010

Success of Locally Owned Pharmacy Gives Hope to Independent Retailers

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Ever since the downtown CVS closed eight years ago, officials have been looking for a pharmacy to take its place. On Jan. 25, these officials finally got their wish when Palmer Pharmacy opened on East Green St.

On Friday, the Downtown Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony that the mayor, the city planning director and the deputy director for economic development all attended.

The Palmers, who own the pharmacy, opened their first store five years ago in Trumansburg and their second in 2006 in Ovid. While they were in the midst of starting up the Ovid store, the Alliance approached them about opening in the current location, but they turned the offer down. After the Downtown Ithaca Alliance determined from polls of Ithaca residents that a pharmacy was the most desired type of business for the downtown area, it asked the couple again, and this time they said yes.

“We probably would not have expanded for a while without the Downtown Alliance,” Mrs. Palmer said. “We were pretty content with two stores.”

Officials had been looking to recruit larger national chains as well, including CVS and Rite Aid, but all of them declined.

“No big chain will touch a location like this,” Mrs. Palmer said.

The 3,500 square foot store, which is located next to a TCAT bus stop, Urban Outfitters and Gimme! Coffee, hopes to provide customers with a different atmosphere. In Palmer Pharmacy, in contrast to branches of larger chains, customers will be able to develop a personal relationship with their pharmacist.

“That’s what we pride ourselves on, the service in the pharmacy,” she said.

The store also features an old-fashioned soda fountain and ice cream bar, serving Cayuga Lake Creamery ice cream.

“We’re trying to get a little bit of nostalgia going,” Mrs. Palmer said.

The pharmacy has already generated more traffic than the Palmers anticipated. Mrs. Palmer said that she now has to restock the store’s already depleted ice cream supply.

“There’s crazy foot traffic,” Mrs. Palmer said. “It’s a really nice location.”

Some Cornell students, however, would continue to use their local stores.

“I happen to live in Cayuga Heights so I would normally go to Tops or Rite Aid,” said Jeff Schreyer ’12.

While many stores in downtown are closing, the vacancies are turning around quickly, according to Ferguson.

“We’ve started to make some progress whittling away the 11.1% vacancy rate,” Ferguson said. Ferguson said that two stores have decided to open a downtown location in the last month.

“It wasn’t difficult to open,” Mrs. Palmer said. “Healthcare is in its own realm. People are always going to be sick. People are always going to need medication no matter how the economy is.”

The pharmacy is just one aspect of the changing landscape of downtown Ithaca. The Common Council approved a layout for a Commons redesign plan last month, which will move seating areas and provide a more open viewing space for pedestrians. In the near future, the Council is expected to allocate a budget for repairing the street’s failing underground utility system.

While their pharmacy enjoys its opening months, the Palmers are now looking forward to finally taking their honeymoon. The couple married in June and have been putting off their special trip to focus on the business.

“It’s been chaos,” she said.

Original Author: Juan Forrer