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New owner and big changes for historic Winslow Drug
The historic downtown fixture of Winslow Drug will soon find itself with new hours and services to go with its new owner.
Justin Ausmeier, long-time pharmacy manager at the Bainbridge Island Rite Aid, has purchased the downtown staple and will take over operations Monday, July 7, with new hours and services — including free prescription delivery — beginning Friday, Aug. 1.
“I love it,” Ausmeier said of the store and its downtown location.
“I’ve been an independent pharmacist, pretty much my whole life. Retail is a tough business,” he said. “Every time I leave it, I get drawn back into it. So for the last 10 or 12 years, that’s where I’ve been.
“I just want to build relationships,” Ausmeier said. “My whole motivation is going down to something a little slower, something where I have more time to make those relationships, make the decisions and talk to people.”
Ausmeier is only the third owner of the store (originally known as Vern’s Winslow Drug) since it first opened in 1956.
The most prominent change Ausmeier plans to implement is the store’s extended hours (8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday).
Currently, Ausmeier said, the closest open after-hours pharmacy for islanders is in Tacoma.
“The hours are probably the biggest change to start,” he said. “That’s a fair amount of extended hours and that’s purely just [for] accessibility.”
Also being added to the services provided by Winslow Drug is free prescription delivery and home health equipment rentals.
“I love home health, that’s an interest of mine,” Ausmeier said, stating specifically he intends to provide rentable wheelchairs, crutches and nebulizers.
“Free prescription delivery [on] the same day. I don’t want it to get out of hand and have people never come to the store. I like to see people. That’s my whole motivation for being a pharmacist — chatting with people and getting to know people — but there’s people who don’t have transport, or maybe a mom who has four kids and is sick and stuck at home. People can call me, and I will get your prescriptions to you,” he said. “You will get what you need.”
Ausmeier said that the ultimate goal was to work together with other downtown storeowners and work within the busy schedules of island shoppers.
“I’ve spoken with the guys down at T&C and I’ve spoken with a couple other businesses downtown and the whole draw is to get people downtown, especially in the summer. It’s perfect. People are coming off of the ferry later, it’s sunny later, so I want an hour earlier and an hour later [during the week].”
Another factor in the store’s extended hours, Ausmeier said, was that it better enabled him to deal with patients’ doctors, many of whom are extending their hours and providing urgent-care options.
Another addition to the store’s services is participation in the National Drug Take-Back program, which assists with the proper disposal of unused medications. According to Ausmeier, national law currently prohibits pharmacists from accepting unused controlled medications. He does, however, outsource to a company qualified to dispose of such items and can inform customers of the easiest and correct way to dispose of their unwanted medicine.
“I get a lot of feedback about this on Bainbridge,” he said. “So I’m definitely going to be taking back syringes and anything that’s non-control [at the store].”
A strong desire to recreate the days of the independent and personal small-town pharmacist is the guiding principle behind all of the changes coming to Winslow Drug, Ausmeier explained.
“I’m going old school,” he laughed. “Phone me if there’s a problem.”
In keeping with traditions, there are many things that Ausmeier said he will not be changing about the store. Islanders can rest assured, he said, that items as diverse as wrapping paper, greeting cards, souvenirs and watch batteries will remain available.
“I’m not going in to wipe out everybody’s favorite products,” he said, mentioning already concerns he’s received about the availability of various items the downtown fixture has become known for. “I love downtown Winslow. In the last two years there’s been a lot of upheaval, [with] the road problems and changing, but I think it’s past that. When I go downtown, you can see how much busier it is. Businesses have started coming back in. It’s exciting. The one thing I’ve said over repeatedly is, if you had to picture Winslow Way right now and [somebody] said, ‘Pick a store or two that needs a little bit to come into what the rest of Winslow is.’ People are like, ‘Winslow Drug could do with a little facelift.’”
Frequent downtown visitors know that facelift has already begun, with the improved store layout boasting new floors, paint and lighting, without sacrificing any of the unique small town drug store kitsch in the front windows.
A background in medicine
Ausmeier, who hails from South Africa and first moved to Bainbridge 2006, comes from a family of medical professionals. His father was a dentist and his mother a nurse.
When, just weeks after graduating high school, a sudden twist of fate turned him away from his primary goal of playing professional rugby, Ausmeier looked at the college nearest his hometown and chose the only medical program they offered: pharmacy.
“I had actually never considered it,” he remembered. “I was like, ‘OK, I’ll do that for a year and then I’ll go be a dentist at my dad’s college.’ I did one year of pharmacy school and I enjoyed it.”
A world’s worth of travel, one wife and two kids later, Ausmeier said he is confident he made the right choice.
“I love being a pharmacist,” he said. “A downtown independent bustling pharmacy, that’s what I want. The pharmaceutical side of things is enjoyable, the medication and that kind of stuff, but more than anything it’s the people [I enjoy].”
Winslow Drug is located at 290 Winslow Way East. Call 206-842-2652 for more information.