Ed Cassidy - Putnam Sentinel
Ed Cassidy, owner of Hawkey's Pharmacy. (File photo)

COLUMBUS GROVE — First opened by George Hawkey in 1948, Hawkey’s Pharmacy’s final day of business will be Saturday, April 21, following approximately 70 years in business.

According to the Ohio Pharmacists Association (OPA), this closing is not that unusual of an event these days in the state of Ohio. As reported in the Dayton Daily News in August of 2017, Ohio lost a net of 165 independent pharmacies in a two-year period, the sharpest decline ever reported per the OPA.

“The state’s reimbursement for Medicaid is just unsustainable,” said Hawkey’s owner Ed Cassidy regarding the closing. Though he emphasized that it was a handful of events that lead to the decision to close.

“Four things hit me this year that just made it so something had to change,” Cassidy said. “St. Rita’s locked us out of their plan. Their patients have to go to St. Rita’s hospital for their prescriptions. Then, the medicaid reimbursements just went to nothing. You’re making twenty-five cents per sale. You fill 80 prescriptions at 25 cents, it doesn’t pay the light bill. Those were the two in the pharmacy business.”

“Then, actually, the bank got their new building and they moved out of downtown,” continued Cassidy. “Now, all those people who used to park right back here, where it’s convenient to walk-in, are now over there. So, do you make two left turns and try to find a parking space, or do you drive down to the other retail store that opened up. And, that was the other thing, the retail store that opened up, we just can’t compete with what people perceive as the benefit from them.”

“So those things pretty much made [the business] unsustainable by itself,” said Cassidy “By combining with Riley Creek, I think that’s the best case scenario for what we can do. It’s still a small, independent pharmacy, with the values of a small town. It’s close. It’s seven miles away. It’s the closest pharmacy to our store. It’s easy to park, it’s not like trying to parallel park out here. And, the people there, I’ve known them for years, they’re great. I’m so comfortable with them, and I know they care. That’s kind of what made it the best option for us.”

When speaking with Amy Myers of Riley Creek Pharmacy, she echoed many of these same sentiments expressed by Cassidy, saying, “We are excited to welcome the Columbus Grove customers. We’re the closest pharmacy now, and we’ll give them the same service they’ve come to expect from Ed. I’ve known Ed since 1995, and we’ve always had a good working relationship.”

Both Myers and Cassidy emphasized that Hawkeye’s customers will already have their prescriptions on file at Riley Creek, including refills, when the changeover occurs. Riley Creek Pharmacy will also be reaching out to area doctor’s offices to inform them of the change, and those offices are able to submit prescriptions to Riley Creek now if they like. The community is also invited to Riley Creek Pharmacy on April 23 for an open house. The pharmacy is located at 112 E. Main Street in Pandora, and can be reached by calling: 419-384-3303.

“People can come in, take a look around and get used to it,” said Cassidy. “It should be a seamless transition. The files will be transferred over there. I’ll be there. Joy [Stechschulte] will be there.”

“That’s the plan,” Cassidy continues. “I wanted to be eighty-years-old and passing it onto somebody else. In fact, my son’s attending pharmacy school…” Cassidy’s emotions suddenly interrupt his thoughts. The emotions of a man who clearly believes he is doing what is best for his business. Proud of what he has accomplished through 14 years of ownership, Cassidy makes no attempt to hide how he feels about this chapter’s end.

“It’s just not…It’s just not feasible with what the reimbursement rates are and with things being the way it is. We’ve been trying to tell people [about the closing]. I’d rather do that than send out a form letter. I’ve read articles of these other pharmacies that closed. People walk-in one day and there’s a sign on the door. I never wanted to do business that way.”

When asked if there was one thing he wanted the community of Columbus Grove to know, Cassidy responds, “That their care won’t change. Like I said, I really believe in small town pharmacy. That’s the main thing. [My customers] are going to get the same level of care as I would want to give my grandparents.”