Small Business Chronicles: Sand Run Pharmacy

By Rick Bohan

When asked how Sand Run Pharmacy manages to compete with the Walgreens and CVSs of the world, who have millions of dollars to spend on marketing, owner and pharmacist Tom Lamb simply says, “It all has to do with the connections we make with our customers and with the community.”

Sand Run Pharmacy has been in business since 1958. Tom purchased the store in 1989. “When you own your own business, it’s a 24/7 commitment,” says Tom. “We owned the business for years before we were able to take a vacation. We regularly get calls at night, and we’re happy to take them because we have that personal relationship with our customers.”

Tom tells a story about a panel he participated on that was presenting to a class of pharmacy students.  “There were guys from CVS and Walgreens there with projectors and slides to show. I was just winging it.  At one point, one of the other presenters told the students that customer complaints were handled by giving the customer a gift card. I told the class that we don’t have to give gift cards to customers with complaints, because we handle their needs individually and with care.”

“It’s true that getting the word out can be a challenge, but we’ve found that word of mouth works well for us.  Also, being involved in the community brings new customers in.”

Tom and his wife, Meg, also a pharmacist, have made the business a success through this participation in the community. “We know everyone in the surrounding neighborhoods, it seems. We go out to eat and everybody knows us. The pharmacy has preceptors, students who are like interns or residents, who ask us, ‘How do you know everyone’s names?’”

I saw this same closeness to community and neighbors even during our interview. Twice, Tom broke off our interview for a few moments to greet customers by name and make sure they were taken care of.  

What does the future hold for Sand Run Pharmacy and other small stores? “There is still that need for small businesses that can develop relationships with customers without sacrificing price or quality,” says Tom. “There’s a myth that we must be more expensive than the larger stores, but we have the same prices and the same capabilities they do and some that they don’t. For example, we compound veterinary medicines. When the large stores run out of vaccines, we always have them. We’re independently owned but we belong to a larger purchasing group to keep our costs down.”

“The difference between us and the national pharmacies is caring. We can handle the questions and special needs that the big stores can’t or don’t want to. They’re interest is in efficiency and keeping costs low. Our interest is in serving customers’ needs so they keep coming back because of a relationship with us,” says Tom. “We think we’re doing a good job of it because there are families in the area that we’ve been serving for four generations.”

Sand Run Pharmacy: 40 Sand Run Road, Akron, OH  44313

Hours: Monday through Friday 9 am – 7 pm, Closed Sunday

Photo courtesy of Sand Run Pharmacy