Today, Wednesday, April 28, is Medical Center Pharmacy’s last day in business after serving the community for 61 years. Lem Nevil and Chester Hanberry opened the Medical Center Pharmacy in 1960. They eventually sold the business to Lem’s son Jamie Nevil and Walter Pease. Walter Pease retired over a year ago and sold his interest in the business to Jamie Nevil.

Over the past 60 years, Medical Center Pharmacy became much more than a pharmacy and gift shop. It is a landmark. For decades it was the gathering spot for locals who would meet there for a snack or light meal at the Soda Shoppe in the rear of the Pharmacy.

For four decades Medical Center was perfectly located right next to Bulloch Memorial Hospital, which gave it a real competitive advantage.

In 1984, owners Walter Pease and Jamie Nevil expanded the restaurant into the rear of the building, adding a commercial kitchen and more seating for customers. Later they expanded the pharmacy to add a second location inside the Cotton Ridge medical complex on Fair Road.

Bulloch Memorial Sale Impacts Medical Center Traffic

Health Management Associates purchased Bulloch Memorial Hospital in October 1995. Based in Naples, Florida, HMA immediately began plans to build a new facility which is now East Georgia Regional Medical Center. The $55-million facility opened with 150 beds and a staff of 60 doctors on July 16, 2000.

The old Bulloch Memorial hospital building sat vacant for years before the county demolished the structure. Ogeechee Area Hospice takes up a large portion of the original footprint of the former Bulloch Memorial Hospital.

In May of 2016, Medical Center closed the popular Soda Shoppe restaurant and soda fountain. A few years later they closed their second pharmacy location inside the Cotton Ridge medical complex.

Customers and Community Gave No Notice of the Closing

Over the past week we began having customers of Medical Center Pharmacy reaching out to Grice Connect asking about rumors regarding the closing. We reached out to the owner, Jamie Nevil by phone and text with no reply. When visiting the store, we were told by an employee they were not allowed to discuss the closing with the media due to “contractual obligations”.

As rumors mounted customers began calling the pharmacy. One long time client and family friend of the Nevils who asked to remain anonymous, called the pharmacy and asked specifically if they were closing.

They were told by an unnamed employee that the pharmacy would be permanently closed at the end of the day on Wednesday, April 28th. Their prescriptions would be transferred to Walgreens and if they wanted to move them to another pharmacy, they could do that by visiting Walgreens on Thursday. When asked if they had mailed a letter or provided any other correspondence or communication with their customers, the answer was no.

There was no signage in the pharmacy that indicated it would be closing.

Many customers have began taking to social media to let others know that they have been personally told the pharmacy is closing. One community minded customer encouraged the community to go to the pharmacies facebook page which at the time of this story has been taken down.

Regardless of how this has ended for Medical Center Pharmacy, it is important to honor the rich history, wonderful memories and contributions to our community by the owners and dedicated employees of the pharmacy.

Pharmacy Believed to Have Sold to Walgreens

We reached out to our contacts in the pharmacy industry to see if we could get clarification on the cloud of secrecy surrounding the closing of a landmark business like this. The expert, who has no specific knowledge of the sale of Medical Center, explained that this is the new normal when a large chain pharmacy buys a local pharmacy.

In this case, his assumption is that Walgreens has purchased the pharmacy based on customers being told that this is where their prescriptions are being sent. From past experience, large chains know that a large number of the current clients may leave the pharmacy before the sale is completed, if prior knowledge is received by the customers.

Typically the primary pharmacist is hired by the chain acquiring the local pharmacy. It is the hope of the chain, that many of the customers will simply follow the pharmacist to the new location. By making it a surprise, such as this, it is believed that clients will simply do what is easiest and move to the new pharmacy.

In a situation like this, it puts the owner of the local pharmacy and their staff in a very awkward situation. Most likely, they have all had to sign non-disclosure agreements as part of the condition of the sale in hopes of protecting the book of business which they are selling.

This is one more way, large conglomerate businesses have changed the way business is done, especially in a small community.

It is regretful that a business like this has to keep their customers in the dark. However, the owner has to balance what is the best personal financial decision at the time of a sale.

Certainly we wish the Nevil family and all of the dedicated and wonderful staff members of Medical Center Pharmacy the best of luck as they move on to the next chapter of their lives. Thank you all for your long, faithful and dedicated service to our community.

Customers have a Choice

Of course customers do have a choice. If you do not want to move to Walgreens there are ample, wonderful locally owned pharmacies ready and willing to help you with your needs.

You do not have to go to Walgreens or even contact Walgreens to move your prescriptions to another pharmacy. If you choose to move your prescriptions to another pharmacy all you need to do is to contact your new pharmacy by phone, email or online to request a transfer. They will handle it completely for you.

Herschel DeWayne Grice is the founder of Grice Connect an online news and information company in Statesboro, Georgia. DeWayne has been active in the media for over three decades. He brings a unique insight...