August 28, 2014

Spotlight on Fishtown Pharmacy: Promoting Connection to the Community

Fishtown Pharmacy Spotlight

This week in our spotlight we introduce you to Fishtown Pharmacy.

Located at 1802 Frankford Ave in Philadelphia, PA, the brick and mortar pharmacy employees three and just celebrated its first year anniversary April 25.

WHAT THE BUSINESS IS KNOWN FOR: Fast and unparalleled service.

Owner and pharmacist Kris Hunsicker (pictured above) believes the pharmacy’s success is rooted in truly knowing people as well as you know their medicines. Customized care begins by acknowledging the pharmacy has no customers, only patients, Hunsicker says.

WHAT INSPIRED THE BUSINESS STARTUP? The desire to create a different vibe.

From the beginning Hunsicker felt the stigma behind going to the pharmacy was wrong. Like going to the doctor, it was a thing to do when you got sick. But instead, he felt pharmacies should have a pleasant atmosphere and that pharmacists should promote a sense of welcoming and wellness. Believing much of the industry had lost this focus, Hunsicker said he felt he needed to open Fishtown Pharmacy to “refocus” the industry on this aspect of its service.

BIGGEST RISK TAKEN IN THE BUSINESS: Opening the pharmacy in the first place!

Hunsicker says opening a neighborhood pharmacy in the face of retail giants was the biggest risk he ever took. But he believed patients would still value personalized service above all else. He ignored what he describes as third party insurance carriers trying to push patients into mail order, or mandate them to use a specific chain pharmacy. The move required some serious inner faith and immense positive reinforcement from his wife and family.

BIGGEST WIN: Support of his staff and patient base.

Having worked as a pharmacist for more than 15 years prior to opening a small neighborhood pharmacy of his own, Hunsicker says his biggest win was that his two longtime technicians followed him into the new venture. Another “win”  is a patient base from his former place of employment some of whom drive 10 to 15 minutes just to patronize his pharmacy. He says another “win” has been the neighborhood of Fishtown’s strong support of small independent businesses like his.

ONE THING THE BUSINESS WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY: Should have done this 10 years ago.

If given a do-over the one thing Hunsicker believes he would change is to start on the entrepreneurial path sooner. He admits fear of the unknown kept him from striking out on his own sooner. But today he says he believes he gained something by waiting. Mainly, he believes that he learned from his experience in other working environments both what he wanted for himself and for his employees. He adds that years of being told he was expendable by his former employer, and that the doors of the pharmacy would open and close with or without him, had taught him something. Today, he says his employees know how integral they are to his business operations. In fact, he says he believes if employees are indeed unimportant – it probably means he’s hired the wrong ones.

FUN FACT: This pharmacy has a “fun committee.”

Taking advice from a blog, Hunsicker once established a “fun committee” at his pharmacy whose sole function it was to maintain good morale. By contrast, he says at his last job, he often had to give himself a pep talk before walking in. It is his stated goal to make sure none of his employees ever feel the same way about coming to work at his pharmacy.

IF THIS BUSINESS WAS A BOOK, IT WOULD BE: “Conscious Capitalism” by Whole Foods Founder John Mackey and Raj Sisodia.

Hunsicker calls the book “wildly inspiring” because “it details how businesses can enrich their communities, create value for their customers, benefit their employees, and determine your business’s own higher purpose,” he explains.

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Find out more about the Small Biz Spotlight program.

9 Comments ▼

Shawn Hessinger - Editor


Shawn Hessinger Shawn Hessinger is the Editor for Small Business Trends. He is a journalist and social media networker with more than a decade of experience in the traditional newspaper business before moving to the digital world. He was the former community manager of BizSugar and the former community editor at AllAnalytics, a site dedicated to professionals in the business intelligence and analytics community.

9 Reactions

  1. Great story, Shawn.

    I have a friend who owns a local pharmacy-he does just fine.

    It’s about the “personal touch.” He does what he says he’ll do, too.

    Period.

    The Franchise King®

    • It’s a myth that small businesses can’t go up against big chains and make decent revenue. It’s like local coffee shops thinking they’ve got no choice but to shut down when Starbucks comes to town. In the first place, there’s almost always profit in providing an alternative. In the second, you don’t need 100 percent of the market to win. Your profit margin should be your main concern, not your market share. That’s what small businesses need to win.

  2. Going up against national pharmacy chains like CVS and Walgreens takes some moxie, but I’m glad the community supports him and he’s doing well. Big stores lose that personal touch quickly, but a neighborhood store actually knows you.

  3. “The best time to start a business was yesterday.” Interesting to see that the only thing he would have done differently was to have started sooner.

    As others have mentioned, it definitely takes guts to go up against huge competitors like CVS and Walgreens. But at the same time, that’s a *huge* part of your advantage. You have the ability to offer an experience you *know* can be better than the big guys’.

    Why? You can act and react *quickly*. You have the ability to change, improve, and adjust on a dime. And that’s something that certainly doesn’t go unnoticed by your customers. It’s great (and no huge surprise) that he has a supportive customer base — I would love to actually have my feedback heard — and even acted upon — in a setting that it would usually go unnoticed.

    I feel there’s a new success story out of Philly every day! Awesome to see.

    • “You have the ability to offer an experience you *know* can be better than the big guys’.”

      You nailed Alex. It was that knowledge that originally gave me the confidence to get started, and remains the most comforting aspect today. People will always value a more personalized experience, and I’m confident we’ll always have that advantage over the ‘retail giants’. I always despised how slow the ‘wheels of change’ moved in the corporate workplace, and what an easy scapegoat those ‘wheels’ provided for bosses unwilling to put forth effort to respond, and as you said “adjust on a dime”. Those adjustments are what keep me vital in my industry, and simultaneously make each day exciting and dynamic. WIN WIN!

      Shawn- Thank you so for much this opportunity. The support and exposure that people like you provide small businesses is invaluable.

  4. Hi Robert,
    Absolutely, and this sort of thing is happening even more often in urban areas than in small towns, by the way…at least here on the East Coast. Bigger economies offer more opportunity for niche markets and a more diverse customer base.

  5. misss you chris! and I truly believe that the way you treat your employees is crucial!

  6. This is a great example of what seeking to connect with your community does. I’ve recently put some processes into place that are really going to help increase my connection and engagement levels within my community as I’ve seen how well they’ve worked for other businesses in my niche.

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