A feel-good partnership: New drugstore to fill need in Williamstown

The Williamstown Apothecary in this storefront at 72 Spring St., is expected to open in late March or early April. The store is a collaboration between Berkshire Health Systems and Williams College.

WILLIAMSTOWN — There's a brand-new drugstore coming to town, and it will follow in the style of the apothecaries of old by sticking to the basics of health care needs.

It also fills a gap left in town with the closing of a small pharmacy on Spring Street a few years back.

Since then, there has been a pattern of students having a hard time getting prescriptions and other needs at the closest drugstore further away from campus, said Matt Sheehy, associate vice president for finance and administration at Williams College. Other town residents expressed similar sentiments.

"Increasingly we've had a need for students to get to critical-need items, and some are challenged getting to the chain drugstore," he said.

So, college officials and officials at Berkshire Health Systems put their heads together and decided to open Williamstown Apothecary at 72 Spring St. in a space owned by the college. The new space is undergoing permitting and renovation. Officials expect it to open in late March or early April.

"In discussions with Williams College leadership, the desire to have a pharmacy in easy walking distance from the college campus was cited as a significant need for students, faculty and staff, and will also greatly benefit the overall community," said Darlene Rodowicz, BHS chief financial officer.

"Having something close to campus was just really important," Sheehy said. "And to have a partner in that with BHS made a lot of sense."

He noted that local residents also had expressed an interest in having a local neighborhood pharmacy where they could feel comfortable discussing their needs with someone local they will come to know over time.

BHS already operates two other pharmacies, one at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield and the other at Berkshire Medical Center's North Campus in North Adams.

"This is really the next phase of that," said David MacHaffie, BHS director of retail and specialty services. "And if this works, there might be other locations that would be appropriate for a similar use."

The Williamstown Apothecary will be operated by Berkshire Health Systems through its Berkshire Community Pharmacy as a full retail pharmacy with access to prescription medications and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals.

Rodowicz said they don't consider the new store as competition for the other pharmacies in the area, but rather as an effort to enhance access to health care needs by providing closer proximity to a population center.

The new apothecary will feature an automated kiosk that can provide preordered prescriptions 24 hours a day, all year long.

MacHaffie noted that the new 1,100-square-foot store will only be selling health-related products, not other retail goods such as packaged foods or office supplies. And the interior decor will be themed after an old-time apothecary, with wood finishes and the like.

"The Williamstown Apothecary will carry a variety of vitamins, supplements and medications that are common to pharmacies, but also will have several items of interest to the college community," MacHaffie said. "We will also have a selection of herbal medications and teas, flower essence tinctures, a line of high-quality skin care products, local organic handmade soaps, and essential oils and diffusers, among other items of interest."

MacHaffie estimated that there would be about five employees at first. Hours for the first few weeks will be 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.