Pharmacist Ali Thakkar, of Highland, says Laurel's Main Street Pharmacy has been a growing operation since it opened under original owner Joan Kim in 2005. As its customer base multiplied and Thakkar took over the business, the India native said an inevitable facility expansion came to fruition last month when the pharmacy moved two doors down from its original location.
Main Street Pharmacy tackled its weekend move to a former hair salon at 667 Main St. in mid-December, closing only one Saturday. Measuring at 1,100 square feet, Thakkar said the new location is nearly twice the size of its predecessor, creating room for new and improved pharmaceutical necessities.
"The thought of leaving Main Street has never occurred to me. We've seen growth even with tremendous competition from big chains," Thakkar, 37, said. "I first took over in 2011 and we've close to doubled [in patients]. There are busy days when we're filling over 200 prescriptions a day and slower days when we're getting close to it."
Thakkar said he cherished the original pharmacy's atmosphere, but it was time to modernize existing features. In the new store, bright walls of white and green welcome patients under a ceiling canvas depicting tree cover.
Various over-the-counter medications and supplies are aligned on shelving, with the pharmacy's new logo showing a white compounding bowl enclosed by a tree bark-colored ring that reads "Main Street Pharmacy."
While phones managed to ring once or twice before being answered, Thakkar recalled the long hours he placed into creating the perfect space for his diverse staff of six part- and full-time employees, two drivers and an intern.
Thakkar said the previous location was essentially one large room divided by countertops and isles.
"When I came in here [early last year], I dragged my feet for two months, just sitting and brainstorming, 'OK, here's my space. What are my needs?'" Thakkar said. "I went through probably 50 different layouts of what I wanted. I became an architect during the project."
No significant structural changes were made during the renovation process, but Thakkar said he included space for a patient immunization room, a compounding lab to prepare personalized medications, storage for hospital and hospice supplies as well as an office and employee break room.
"I was adamant that we have as little disruption as possible" during the move, Thakkar said. "I chose a weekend to make the move. It was risky, [but] customers were more than accommodating. That's just the relationship that we've developed with our patients."
Costs totaled approximately $300,000 for the property, construction and move, he said.
Maureen Rogers, Board of Trade administrative coordinator, said she was pleased to learn about the expansion of Main Street Pharmacy.
"When you have an individual owner like that, there's that personal touch that everybody likes and needs with a pharmacy," said Rogers, who is also a frequent customer.
Rogers said Main Street will welcome three hometown shops this year, including Sweets and Treats Creamery currently located on Montgomery Street, and Treasure Chest thrift store. Basket Treats will also have a grand re-opening on Jan. 21 after remodeling.
"It's just nice to have all these personal businesses on Main Street," she said. "Lately, it seems like every time I turn around something great is happening on Main Street."
Eva Lekleban, a native of Central African Republic, said she's worked at the pharmacy since it opened on Main Street 12 years ago. Over time, the technician said, she and her co-workers recognized the need for more space. Moving a short distance was not only convenient for employees, she said, but also its customers.
"If we moved away from Main Street, it would've been a big change for them," Lekleban said. "We needed to stay."
A registered nurse, Laurel resident Ruth Walls said the pharmacy's quality of care goes beyond filling prescriptions . Walls is a founder of the Patrons for Peace Project in Laurel, which provides care and resources to people who are homeless or mentally ill.
"They give very individualized, multi-disciplinary care," Walls said. "They're looking at all aspects of the client. That's what makes them so unique."
Waiting for her prescription refill, Laurel resident Della Catena said she loved the new location and prefers the pharmacy over ones in chain stores.
"I think it's very nice. It's bigger and brighter," Catena said. "The service is always the same, very good. ... They always have everything you want and are very accommodating."
Standing amid a few unpacked boxes, Thakkar said Main Street Pharmacy now has room to grow and continue to serve the city of Laurel and surrounding areas.
"We're not big on sales or the competition because that's not what we're about," Thakkar said. "We're about providing a service that is not available anywhere else and when patients come here, we guide them, advise them and when they go home, they get better."