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Sawnee Drug Co. marks milestone

POSTED: November 16, 2013 1:23 a.m.
Crystal Ledford/

Tim Short fills a customer’s prescription at Sawnee Drug Co., which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this month.

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When Tim and Rita Short started Sawnee Drug Co., the average prescription cost was about $15, while today it’s more than $70.  

That’s just one of many things that have changed in the 25 years since the pharmacy opened its doors on Hwy. 20 near the Cherokee County line.

“Forsyth County was a lot different back then,” said Tim Short, a pharmacist who has worked in the drug store business since he was 14. “There were no red lights between here and Cumming. Now there are six … every morning when I go to breakfast I normally catch three at minimum.

“When we built this building in the summer of ’88, it was just pine fields everywhere. So it’s changed a lot.”

The pharmacy, which is celebrating its quarter century of business all this month with various sales and events, opened on Nov. 1, 1988. Over the years, it has expanded to include larger medical equipment and specialty supplies such as those for a mastectomy and diabetic patients.

Short, a native of Commerce, said Sawnee Drug Co. was just the fifth drug store in the county when it began.

“I was the third independent and there were two national chains here at that time,” he said. “Now there are probably 50 drug stores here, maybe more.”

The way people pay for their prescriptions has definitely shifted over the years too.

“Probably less than half the people had insurance when we opened,” he said. “Now probably at least 90 percent have some kind of insurance or Medicaid, some form of assistance.”

Their personal lives have also changed a lot since the Shorts opened the pharmacy.

“Nearly a year to the day after we opened, our first son was born,” he recalled. “Now he’s 24 and we have a second son who’s 21.

“I also didn’t have any gray hair when we opened. Having two college-age kids tends to gray it up really fast.”

Despite the changes, Short said there are some things he has tried to ensure stay the same, no matter the decade. Probably the most important is remaining an independent pharmacy.

“The independents still give better service. That’s our forte,” he said. “That’s what we’re all about … customer service, that’s the name of the game.”

On a recent afternoon, it was apparent that’s true for the Shorts, who run the store with a “small, tight ship” of about five employees.

“Ever since they opened, I’ve been coming here,” said Janet Reece. “I live in Cherokee County and work in Cumming so it’s perfect to just stop by on my way home from work and pick up my prescriptions.

“I just like coming in here because it’s small and they’re nice. They call me by name, so you have that small-town feel.”

Short said he tries to remember all his customers’ names, but joked that just like other aspects of the business, his ability to do so has changed over the years.

“We try to know them all by sight when they walk through the doors, but sometimes that’s difficult. The older you get, the harder it is to remember.”

Apparently, just making the effort means a lot for many customers, since the pharmacy has several multi-generational families who come there.

“We figured up the other day that we’ve got a few families that are in their fifth generation,” Short said. “There are several folks in their fourth generation. We still have some customers that have been with us since day one.”

Like Reece, Lesa Reynolds is another of those.

“I keep coming here because it’s good service, friendly people and they have my family’s best interests at heart,” she said.

That’s music to the ears of Short, who doesn’t plan to retire any time soon.

“Maybe we can do it 25 more years,” he said. “I might have to cut back a few hours though since I’ll be about 80 then.

“As long as we keep it independent, that’s what counts.”

 

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