DALTON — The Market 32 by Price Chopper supermarket chain has acquired O'Laughlin's Home Care Pharmacy on Main Street, closing the door on one of the Berkshires' few remaining independently owned pharmacies.
But pharmacist Stanley Walczyk is not going out of business; he and most of his staff will be traveling a short distance to the pharmacy at the Market 32 supermarket on Hubbard Avenue in Pittsfield, a move that officially takes place on Monday. O'Laughlin's will officially close on Sunday.
"We are combining his business under the Market 32 umbrella," said Kathy Bryant, vice president of pharmacy for Price Chopper, which is based in Schenectady, N.Y. "We had a substantial pharmacy business within Market 32 and Stan has a substantial business, so we're combining the forces of both."
"I think it's really important to let people know that I will be bringing my files down there to Price Chopper," Walczyk said. "I'm integrating my pharmacy files with theirs. ... We're partnering with them to provide the same services and principles that we've provided for the last 32 years.
"I look at it as I can integrate my system with them," he said.
Ten of O'Laughlin's 11 total employees will make the move to Price Chopper, where they will be combined with that pharmacy's five current employees. According to Walczyk, they all interviewed with Price Chopper and were all offered jobs, but one of his pharmacy technicians is leaving to take a teaching position at Mount Anthony High School in Bennington, Vt.
"When we buy independent pharmacies we like to bring on the entire team," said Bryant, referring to previous Price Chopper acquisitions in New York and Pennsylvania.
This is the first time Price Chopper has acquired an independently owned pharmacy in Berkshire County, Bryant said. She declined to disclose the purchase price.
Price Chopper learned that O'Laughlin's was available through a broker associated with Walczyk, Bryant said. Due to the problems that independent pharmacists face, Walczyk said he had been unable to find anyone who was willing to take over the business, and had been looking for two years.
"An independent operation where you can find someone like me who would carry it on as an independent pharmacy was not out there," he said, "We found the next best thing in a family-owned company."
Problems with receiving equal reimbursements for patients who receive prescription drugs, combined with the exclusive partnerships that insurance companies reach with major drug and discount chains, have shrunk the margins for independent pharmacists, Walczyk said.
Berkshire County had 38 independent pharmacies when Walczyk started his business 32 years ago. But only three will be left when O'Laughlin's closes, he said.
"Pharmacy is an incredible, wonderful profession," Walczyk said. "It's a horrible business."
Joining Market 32 will allow O'Laughlin's customers immediate access to the chain's programs and services, including Market 32's Diabetes AdvantEdge Program that offers free diabetes medications and supplies.
Other Market 32 programs include free antibiotics, free prenatal and children's vitamins, immunizations for shingles, and pneumonia, and flu vaccinations. Market 32 accepts most insurance plans. The pharmacy also contains an interactive blood pressure kiosk, and a private, professional patient counseling room.
Market 32's pharmacy is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.