The sarsaparillas have long gone, but a handful of pharmacies still can call their town home.
Schulz and Wroten has been a fixture on North Washington Street in Beeville for decades. Though it has changed hands, names and locations a couple times, it is known best by its current name.
It was named Schulz Pharmacy back when it was purchased by Paul Schulz in 1936. Thomas Wroten came to work there as pharmacist in 1948 and, when he bought a portion of the pharmacy in 1961, it officially became Schulz and Wroten. The name has stuck since then, even though Schulz sold the remainder of the company to Wroten in 1971.
Part of what gives a pharmacy a hometown feel is a familiar face. Wroten was a familiar face behind the counter at Schulz and Wroten for 60 years.
It was the only pharmacy at which he ever worked. There was a time in his career when he was the youngest pharmacist in Beeville and another time when he was the oldest pharmacist in Beeville.
Even though Wroten died several years ago, his family still runs the pharmacy. Both daughters (Beth Wroten Newsom and Judy Wroten Cline) have been pharmacists there for more than 30 years. At 90 years old, Mary Wroten still works as the buyer and merchandiser for the gift department.
Village Pharmacy, currently in Refugio, incorporated in 1981. While not as old Schulz and Wroten, the people there still practice business by the same moral code.
Virginia Pierce, office manager for Village Pharmacy, said the business has been run by pharmacist Larry Strickland since it was incorporated.
The company motto is “Service with a smile,” she said. “We can’t always compete on price, but we can compete on service.”
She feels the small town pharmacies are much more personal than those big chain places.
“It’s like Cheers, the bar; where everybody knows your name,” Pierce said.
The pharmacy has served generations of the same family. People who used to come in as teenagers with their parents are now coming in with their own kids. Since family-owned businesses offer that one-on-one personal attention, she feels it gives the employees a chance to tell patients more about their medications. The patients might be more apt to ask questions too if the pharmacist is someone who knows their name and medical history.
Big box chains have not affected Schulz and Wroten and Village Pharmacy as much as one might expect. While Schulz and Wroten does compete with Walgreens, H-E-B and Wal-mart, they have been fortunate to retain much of their customer base, and Mary Wroten said, on a busy day, the pharmacy can still fill 300 prescriptions.
Wroten attributes customer retention to all the years they have been in the community, the fact that they deliver and that prescription fill time is short.
Pierce said Village Pharmacy goes out of its way to help people. The company supports the community through scholarships, donations and other goodwill gestures and, in turn, the community supports the pharmacy.
To try and stay price competitive with big box chains, the pharmacy has started a prescription savings plan program that gives people without insurance access to a 30-day supply of 300 different generic prescriptions for $9.99.
The desire to help is something that strikes a chord with many, including Strickland and Wroten.
It also struck a chord with John James Kotzurs, who was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma. He endured surgery, and the tumor was removed, but he was left deaf in his right ear and has slight paralysis in the right side of his face. He experience left him grateful.
“I felt like I owed the good Lord something and I came back,” Kotzurs said.
He opened Jays City Pharmacy in Karnes City in 1982 and has been helping people since.
He, like the other pharmacies, said the chains have not hurt his business as much as the changes to Medicare.
“The last five years have been very costly,” he said. “When Medicare Part B went into effect, I should have shut my doors.”
When Medicare Part B became law, the reimbursement pharmacies received was cut by about 50 percent, according to Kotzurs, and when it became managed care the reimbursement was again cut.
He is getting less and less money for filling the same prescriptions.
His other competition is coming from mail order medical companies. The same stresses he faces are being faced by other family-owned pharmacies across the country.
Despite the hard times, Jays City Pharmacy will not be closing its doors any time soon.
Some still hold a small hope that the good ol’ days will return but, until then, the pharmacists will continue day in and day out to fill prescriptions that make the sick well and keep the well healthy. They will hold tried and true to the values that have kept their doors open all these years.