An Rx of the right stuff: Bainbridge Island’s newest pharmacy is open for business

A prescription for some knowledge: According to Merriam-Webster, the “R” in “Rx” stands for the Latin word recipe, meaning “take.” Hence, “Rx two of these” originally meant “take two of these.”

It’s a very different kind of recipe, though, that owners had in mind while setting up Bainbridge Island’s newest pharmacy, more like: one part tradition plus one part innovation, added to a monocultural market to create opportunity.

Bainbridge Island Community Pharmacy (124 Winslow Way West, in the Winslow Green shopping center) marked its grand opening Aug. 8 with minimum fanfare, but excessive interest, according to owner/head pharmacist KC Tan.

Tan and her husband spent a great deal of time recently meeting with local doctors, she said, developing partnerships and finding out what they’d like to see in the island’s only independently owned pharmacy.

“So far, so good,” she said. “A lot of the people who have come in here, they’ve heard about it from their doctors.

“We had Facebook, and pretty much that was all that we did for advertising.”

For longtime islanders, though, the location may lend itself to thoughts of a pharmaceutical nature already.

“This used to be Medicine Shoppe, another independent pharmacy from years back,” Tan said. “There’s a little bit of a history there.”

Tan herself has an impressive history in the pharmacy world, too. She worked for Rite Aid stores, including the island shop, for about 10 years, and then assisted pharmacist Justin Ausmeier at Winslow Drug (formerly Vern’s Winslow Drug), until the store closed in May 2016.

Of course, the boss wasn’t the only transfer. Her staff of four includes several other faces familiar from Winslow Drug as well, keeping the local-centric attitude strong on both sides of the counter.

Learn more about the shop at Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Having worked on both sides of the business, corporate chain and independent, Tan said, gave her a clearer picture of the kind of shop she wanted to run.

“Working for an independent pharmacy, it’s a world away from working for corporate where you don’t have the time to get to know patients,” she said. “I don’t think, as a pharmacist, I would be as effective if I don’t know the patients, like beyond what they’re taking.”

More time with the patients, and allowing customers more of say in what is on the store’s shelves, Tan said, are the main reasons why Bainbridge Island Community Pharmacy is a needed addition on the island, despite being the new kid on an already seemingly crowded block.

There may be at least three other pharmacies on Bainbridge, Tan said, but there are none like hers.

“If you want the personal connection, that’s what we’re offering,” she said. “That’s what makes us different than the big chains.

“Every time I hire somebody I always tell them, ‘I’m not your boss. The customers are your boss. You don’t have to make me happy. You have to make the customers happy.’”

To that end, the pharmacy offers immunizations, health evaluations and accepts most insurances. Also, Tan said, she has designs on further specializing her shop’s offerings in the future by pursuing the licensing required to become a compounding pharmacy.

“There was this story that floated around that we were a compounding pharmacy,” Tan said. “We’re still working on getting the licensing for that. That’s a goal.”

Pharmacy compounding is “the art and science of preparing personalized medications for patients,” according to the Professional Compounding Centers of America. “Compounded medications are made based on a practitioners prescription in which individual ingredients are mixed together in the exact strength and dosage form required by the patient.”

“It’s customizing the medicine for a patient,” Tan said, and it’s something that’s obviously generated much interest also, she explained, as many of the shop’s early walk-ins were there to inquire about it.

“People have come and asked us because they thought we were just a plain compounding pharmacy and we had to tell them no,” she said.

Or, at least not yet. It’s a fitting addition to Bainbridge Island Community Pharmacy, though, where Tan has made the customized experience the guiding principal.

“I tell all of my staff … we’re not at corporate anymore,” she said. “When you’re a pharmacist, you’re not just here to fill prescriptions. You’re also like a bartender. Some of these patients, especially the elderly patients, they come to the pharmacy, they’re not just there to fill their prescriptions. That’s their way of socializing, too, and that’s why you have to give them time, to talk to them to find out what’s going on.

“It’s the little details that you know about their lives that helps in how you decide what would be the best therapy, best treatment option.”