NORTH ADAMS -- One of the county's few remaining independent pharmacies shut its doors for good Thursday.
Nassif's Pharmacy has been sold to CVS, effective immediately, marking an end to its 107 years of business in North Adams.
"It's very, very tough," said Mark Wheeler, sole owner of the Ashland Street business since he bought it from co-owner Allen Nassif in 1997. "We feel very badly."
Customers who have their prescriptions filled at Nassif's will be able to do the same at the CVS Pharmacy in the Big Y Plaza on Veterans Memorial Drive.
Moving customer files to CVS is the "first step" Friday morning, Wheeler said, insisting that his customers in the community will still receive quality service.
"I wouldn't want my customers to go to anyone that wasn't going to take care of them," he said.
A majority of Nassif's employees -- whom he refers to as "my crew" -- will also transfer to CVS, he said.
"I'm going to miss my crew," he said. "They're like my extended family."
Wheeler indicated that the business -- which was wholly owned by the Nassif family until 1988 -- has been in trouble for years and has accrued an "overwhelming" amount of debt.
With the proliferation of large-scale pharmacy chains and changes to healthcare, Wheeler said profit margins continued to decline and never recovered.
"We've tried to reinvent ourselves multiple times, and it just never seems to work," he said.
Nassif's had at one time attracted nursing homes, Wheeler said. But they have since left for larger providers.
It also offered free delivery to the towns of Adams, Williamstown, Clarksburg and the city of North Adams to bring in new customers.
The store even made major renovations in 1995, doubling the size of its pharmacy space, but efforts to revamp the business failed.
The pharmacy business has become a "young man's game," Wheeler said.
With the store's fiscal health in dire condition, Wheeler reached out to financial consultants who advised, "if [you] see an opportunity, sell it."
Now, Flynn's in Pittsfield and Little's in North Adams are the only two remaining independent pharmacies in North County.
When Wheeler graduated from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in 1976 there were about 27 independent pharmacies countywide, including four in North Adams alone, he estimated.
"We care about our customers, and we care about the community," Wheeler said. "It's a hard business."
A representative for CVS could not be reached on Thursday. The Nassif's Pharmacy building is still owned by Nassif's Realty and will be up for sale shortly.