The news last week that pharmacist Aman Garg has leased the shuttered Pharmaca property on West Napa Street was greeted by the public with nothing less than jubilation. That reaction was more than a match for the outpouring of dismay when Pharmaca closed its doors.
Pharmaca was a small chain of 28 drug stores that provided both traditional and non-traditional health products and pharmaceuticals. It was bought by Medly, a corporation selling products online. Within months of the sale of Pharmaca, Medly declared bankruptcy, and sold itself and Pharmaca’s customer list to Walgreens.
Typically, this would be the end of this story, yet another example of the way big corporate chains gobble up their competition to dominate a regional market, but something very different has happened. A gutsy pharmacist is counting on a loyal customer base to reestablish a locally owned, independent drug store, and we think it’s great.
National chains are now a regular fixture of American life. From fast food joints to supermarkets, drug stores to office supplies, chains have proliferated and are now found in every town and city, large and small. Chains are powerful; they have money and Wall Street on their side. Given their size, they do provide a range of products that smaller, independent retailers cannot match, and they’ve found their place in our economy. On the other hand, while they provide jobs, the profits that chains generate leave the community instead of being reinvested locally. In addition, in some cases large chains are actively predatory, targeting smaller competitors, undercutting their prices, and assertively driving them out of business.
Thus it is something of a miracle that Aman Garg has stepped up to reopen what was a very popular pharmacy. In honor of its past, he’s chosen the name Adobe Drugs, a business that once adorned the Sonoma Plaza before moving to its location on West Napa Street at Third. Aman says he will reassemble the popular Pharmaca crew of employees, as possible, which for many people will mean the return of trusted friends.
Pharmaca’s popularity was not based on having the lowest prices or big sales. Rather, the public’s loyal patronage was based on the exceptionally warm and personal service that was offered, and its provision of a range of nontraditional medical products and supplies. Not everyone fully trusts Big Pharma after all, and holistic and natural products and supplements are often just as effective, or more effective, than pharmaceuticals.
We’re pleased that Aman has reached out to the City of Sonoma and the local Chamber of Commerce for support. We believe the City should be actively cultivating relationships with independent businesses that keep their profits locally and build trusting relationships with the public.
Once the doors of Adobe Drugs open, the public will have to show its support. For those who have already transferred their pharmaceutical needs to one of the local chains, it will mean transferring back to Aman’s operation, but that’s just a minor inconvenience when compared to the loss of a cherished local store. As an independent business itself, The Sun feels that now’s the time to step up and support Adobe Drugs, and send a message about loyalty, appreciation, and keeping things local.
And while we’re at it, here’s how to support your locally owned, independent newspaper and website.