Moore Rexall Drugstore

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From an early age, David McKinney knew he was going to be a pharmacist in Springdale.

David’s father, Springdale Mayor Charles McKinney, bought the Moore Rexall drugstore in the late 1950s, eventually buying his partner’s portion of the business in 1971 and changing the name from Joyce’s to McKinney’s.

“Mrs. Cordis, my fifth-grade teacher, asked the class one day what we wanted to do. This is it,” McKinney says.

After receiving &his degree from UAMS, McKinney took over his father’s business in 1981. He says he believes his father kept the business those extra years it took for him to graduate so he would have a job when he came home.

“His childhood goal was to be mayor,” McKinney says. “I think he kept the store as long as he did so I could have a store to come back to.”

“I’d always been pretty active [in city politics],” Charles McKinney says. “Always felt like I should return something back to the community. I just didn’t know I’d stay this long.”

David says that, before he went to college, Charles did try to talk him out of becoming a pharmacist. “I just wanted him to make sure this was something he wanted to do.”

“I did look at physical therapy and a few other fields,” David says. “But this is what I wanted.”

What -It Was

One of Charles McKinney’s first jobs was pouring sodas at the fountain in the downtown pharmacy he would one day own. As time passed, he became more involved with the drug store, eventually becoming its pharmacist. He had a little easier time of it than David because, at that time, no degree was required to dispense drugs.

“I think what I miss more than anything else is becoming part of someone’s family,” Charles said. “At that time, the pharmacist was someone you went to for lots of different things. You shared good times and bad. You got to watch families grow up.”

“Back when my dad was growing up in the drugstore,” David says, “I think he really did want to be a druggist like Clay Clark or Roy Joyce.”

The McKinneys kept the store in its downtown location for decades and opened a few branches, including one in the Fayetteville Wal-Mart. Charles says that operation lasted about two years before Wal-Mart started its own pharmacy.

What It Is

The store David took over in 1981 had as loyal a following as any local business. The store remained relatively the same. He knew nearly everyone who came in and was able to take the time to give that personal attention people expected from their hometown druggist.

The thing David wasn’t prepared for, the one thing that wasn’t taught in school, was the drastic changes that would sweep through the pharmaceutical industry during the 1980s and ’90s.

“Basically, pharmacies have gone from a cash business to an insurance business,” David says. “Now there are a lot of cards. Now the cards control our pricing and set the selling price on drugs. It’s an insurance world and I’m just living in it.”

McKinney says the advent of discount drug stores in grocery and retail chains, mail-order services and pricing conflicts will eventually mean the demise of old-timey drugstores.

“I think the old drugstore will one day be like the old service stations,” he says. “I had a lifestyle that I wanted. But I can’t make a living with that lifestyle.

“You have to give them another reason to come into the store. It’s not convenient to stop here for this and pick your prescription up here. That’s how the discount chains succeed.”

Last August, McKinney closed the old family store and relocated to the Jones Clinic inside Northwest Medical Center. Along with the new location came a new approach to the business. Gone are the days of taking time out to visit with all the customers, answering questions. The bulk of his time is used filling prescriptions, tons of them. He says the increased volume and being located in a medical facility are the only way an independent retailer can make a living.

“You’re just not in a situation where you can give a 30-minute talk about diabetes. It’s going to get to the point where you’ll have to bill someone $100 for a conversation,” McKinney says. “But we are happy to be here. Happy to make a living. It’s just like changing houses. We lost a lot of old friends, they were great to us. But we keep quite a few. It’s not a easy for them to get here, but they still do.

“That’s nice. Dad created that loyalty and I hope we’re creating some of that loyalty too. Be fair. That’s all you can do.”

McKinney says that the industry bases its pricing on classes of trade. He says hospitals pay much less than retailers as do nursing homes, home-health services and veterans facilities. Many drug companies also offer rebates for industry users, but not to retailers.

“The retailers are paying the brunt of costs so the grandmas and grandpas that need them were paying the higher prices for drugs. The hospitals are also receiving reimbursements from insurance companies,” McKinney says.

He says a lawsuit filed recently against the industry because of these unfair trade classes could bring some much-needed stability to retailers on a national level.

Where It’s Going

The new kid on the block, mail-order pharmacies, also promises to take a chunk of business from all retail druggists, McKinney says. With its cheaper price to the pharmacy from the drug manufacturer and the encouragement of its use by insurance companies, local drug stores could become a thing of the past.

“All these factors take away from McKinney and Wal-Mart,” McKinney says. “It’s not just happening to the little guy.

“If you are going to survive, you have to do it like this [in a clinic]. I was lucky. I had a friend in the business convince me of the reality of the situation.”

That friend, Lester Hostal – then president of the Arkansas Board of Pharmacists – died in a car accident two weeks after McKinney decided to move to the Jones Clinic.

“We had always argued back and fourth on the subject. He was proven correct,” McKinney says. “People ask me if I’m happy here – but this is reality. It’s that accepting of a new direction that was holding me back.

“There’s not many old-time drug stores left. I’m lucky to have survived as long as I did. And that’s only because Dad built such a good business.”t