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Mid-Week Mugging: Little Avenue Pharmacy aims to be community hub

Family drug store offers personal service
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mugging little avenue pharmacy
Pharmacists Susan Varghese and her nephew Santhosh Sekharan own and operate Little Avenue Pharmacy. Sue Sgambati/BarrieToday

Pharmacists Susan Varghese and Santhosh Sekharan want the community to know 'the heart behind the Little Avenue Pharmacy.'

Varghese and her nephew opened the tiny drug store at Little and Bayview Drive in November and so far the pair has knocked on about 1,000 homes in the area to say hello. 

"People are surprised that a pharmacist is coming to their door," said Sekharan. "That's our touch. We're not into competing with the big box stores with the big flyers. But how often do you see a pharmacist from a big box store going door to door?"

Sekharan recently moved to Barrie from Hamilton to open the shop with his aunt.

He was a pharmacy manager for about five years and Varghese already has roots in Barrie after working at the Bayfield Walmart pharmacy for ten years.

"What we want is to serve this community," said Varghese. "With a lot of people, we're already on first name terms and they love it that we're here. We really appreciate how the community has responded. We're loving it."

Because they don't have the paperwork of big corporations, these pharmacists say they can spend more time with patients and offer services that set them apart from big competitors.

The door knocks are just one component.

"We personally deliver medications. That way we can talk to patients about it while we're at the door or in their homes," said Varghese. "We do in-home services. If they want med reviews in-home, if they want us to go clean out their medicine cabinets, organize their medications for them. We are free to do all that."

These professionals studied the area before choosing the Little Avenue location and discovered a niche.

"We really wanted to be a neighbourhood pharmacy and this was one spot that really didn't have a pharmacy within a 2 kilometre radius," said Sekharen. "There's about 300 to 400 houses/families that may or may not have a convenient transport. They'd have to take buses and cars. "

Varghese and Sekharan are originally from Dubai but both love Barrie although Sekharan jokes he's getting used to shovelling lots of snow lately. 

Sekharan says he's always had the 'entreprenuerial spirit ' and Varghese is thrilled to be able to be out of the corporate culture and focus on customers.

"We believe in building this pharmacy one patient at a time, one customer at a time," said Sekharan. "We remember not just the patient's name, we remember their story. One thing I like to say is it's not a customer, it's a connection. Sounds kind of cliche, but we're making connections."

Those connections will be long-term as the new business owners have signed a ten-year lease.

They also aim to link people to the many resources Barrie offers in the way of mental health, social support or finding a family doctor and plan to offer flu shots and other immunizations next year. 

"We're like an old-fashioned shop," said Varghese, of the friendly feel of the business. 

"It's that personalized care," said Sekharan. "We may not have bacon on sale. We may not be open 24 hours but we guarantee the time that we take with our customers is unparalleled." 

The Little Avenue Pharmacy is located at 110 Little Avenue, Unit 11.



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Sue Sgambati

About the Author: Sue Sgambati

Sue has had a 30-year career in journalism working for print, radio and TV. She is a proud member of the Barrie community.
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