Above: The window of the Phoenicia Pharmacy. Photo by Julia Reischel.
Residents of the Catskills will soon have fewer places to get prescription drugs. Two independently-owned pharmacies, Miller's Drug Store in Margaretville and the Phoenicia Pharmacy in Phoenicia, have announced plans to close.
Fred and Rebecca Miller, owners of Miller's Drug Store in the Delaware County village of Margaretville, made the announcement in a Facebook post.
“It is with great thanks for your trust, support and business over the last 61 years we announce that as of 6 p.m. May 19, Miller's Drug Store will close,” the posting said.
It went on to say that all prescriptions will be confidentially moved to CVS, a chain pharmacy with a store in Margaretville, where Fred Miller will be a consulting pharmacist for the next four weeks to help with the transition.
Reached at his home on Tuesday, Fred Miller said that he made the decision to close for “personal and business reasons.” He told the Watershed Post, “I've had enough of being an owner and wanted more time off.”
When asked if competition from CVS was a factor in the decision, Miler said, “I probably would have been busier, but it's nice to have them to take over.”
The business has been in the family since Richard Miller, Fred's father, bought it 61 years ago. Fred joined the business in 1985 and has run it since 1991.
Miller said that the community has been “tremendously helpful and supportive,” especially when the business was flooded in 1996 and 2011.
The store was robbed in February, when two Margaretville residents broke in and stole thousands of pain pills.
Georganna Millman, owner of the Phoenicia Pharmacy for 35 years, said that her pharmacy department will permanently close on July 1 and will be open only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays until that time. The building was listed for sale on Monday, May 16.
When asked what led to the decision to close, Millman said, “Money. The very concept of the community pharmacy is unsustainable.”
Millman said that insurance companies and health maintenance organizations reimburse her pharmacy at a rate less than the wholesale price she pays for drugs.
She said that the pharmacy department of her store has been losing money for about four years, but that her late husband Marty, who died last July at the age of 78, kept it going by not paying himself a salary.
“That's how much he loved this community and how much he loved the Catskills,” she said.
Unlike Miller's Drug Store in Margaretville, Millman will not transfer prescriptions to another store.
“I'm just assuming people will go down to our friend Peter Necos at Boiceville Pharmacy,” she said.
Millman noted that she is giving customers almost two months' notice of the closing and said, “I'm choosing to greet each person and have that discussion face-to-face.”
She said “pharmacies are dropping like flies” and called the situation “the takeover of the corporate world.”
Millman said that she would be open to another pharmacy opening in the building and said that recent renovations have prepared it for whatever comes next. (Getting financing for such a venture might be difficult; Phoenicia's lack of a sewage system prevented a would-be purchaser from getting a loan to buy the pharmacy in 2014.)
“Somebody can just put the key in the door and open whatever they want,” she said. “It's ready.”
That does not mean it is easy to part with the business she operated with her husband for 35 years.
“This is such a heartache for me,” she said.