Recovering from a bitter pill

Tim Delaney photo Pharmacist Larry Strickland stands in his Taft Pharmacy in Taft. Strickland has opened his Refugio Pharmacy in his old building in Shay Plaza off Alamo Street this past week. An open house for Refugio customers and the public is scheduled for May 17.

Selling drugs from the trunk of a car sounds illegal.

But that is what Larry Strickland, 77, had to do after Hurricane Harvey.

Strickland, a pharmacist who owns Village Pharmacy in Refugio and Taft Pharmacy in Taft, said “things have been tough.”

“I had a wonderful business. Business has never recuperated (after the hurricane),” he said.

“We’re still down 25%,” he said.

Strickland took over the pharmacy in 1971 from Robert Hedlar.

He acquired the Taft Pharmacy in 1976.

The main reason for the struggle to get business back is the absence of people.

“A lot of people moved on. Refugio is still trying to recoup,” he said.

After the hurricane, about two days later, “we went over there,” he said.

What he saw was parts of the roof had caved in at Shay Plaza where Village Pharmacy sits.

“I give all the credit to the ladies working for me. They got a lot of the electronics, prescription drugs,” he said.

Everything was moved to the Taft Pharmacy, where no damage from the storm happened.

“Although the Taft Pharmacy wasn’t damaged, I had to go to north of Austin to buy a generator,” Strickland said.

“We operated out of the Taft Pharmacy. The ladies were trying to find drugs. We delivered daily to Refugio right there in front of the pharmacy,” Strickland said.

He said people in Refugio seemed to appreciate the effort to get prescriptions to them.

“Some people complained about waiting in line,” he said.

“The drugs were coming out of the trunk of the car,” he said.

Finally, after a month of working out of Taft, a woman called Strickland to tell him she had a building in Refugio he could use for his pharmacy.

“We jumped on it and moved everything over there. But there was hardly any parking,” Strickland said.

The place was just across Alamo Street from McDonald’s.

“It served its purpose. We were there 13 to 14 months,” he said.

Strickland, at  2 years old, was raised in Falfurrias.

He graduated from Falfurrias High School, and he has no plans at this point to retire.

His dad was in the U.S. Air Force and moved around.

Strickland earned his pharmacy degree from the University of Houston in 1966.

“A lot of independent pharmacists are making it, doing well. You know your customers and you call them by their first name,” he said.

“I wanted them to call me Larry and not Mr. Strickland,” he said.

“People in Refugio have been good to me – faithful. There are a lot of new faces now,” he said.

Strickland divides his time between Taft and Refugio, coming to Refugio once a week to sign payroll checks.

“I want that pharmacy to be a good business,” he said.

“People are so glad we’re there. I’m thankful for them trading with me,” he said.

But Strickland insists that the “face of Village Pharmacy” is his staff.

His staff includes manager Christy Lopez, Rene Arriaga, who he calls “super tech,” Sharon Anzaldua and Gloria Yanez.

The hurricane certainly took down the pharmacy for a time, but it is back.

An open house at the pharmacy, now back in Shay Plaza off Alamo Street, is planned for May 17. Customers and the public are invited to stop by.

“And I give God all the credit for that,” he said.

Tim Delaney is the Refugio editor at the  Advance-Guard Press and can be reached at 361-526-2397, or at refugio@mySouTex.com.