Just like the communities that it serves, Carolina Pharmacy is rooted in the belief that relationships matter. Unpresuming yet thriving, the six stores that make up the independent pharmacy are close enough to the North Carolina/South Carolina border to claim both states yet still be within short driving distances of each other. But there’s more than meets the eye about the store that to many, is just the little pharmacy around the corner.
Small start, distinctive vision
In 2008, Vic Patel had a big idea. Carolina Pharmacy, his new independent pharmacy in Rock Hill, South Carolina had just opened. Vic knew that what he had to offer his clientele was different. Business growth was important, but even more so was perfecting personalized service, shorter wait times, a more modern experience, and building trusted relationships with customers. It wasn’t long before he met Chi Patel, a pharmacist who worked just next door at the chain Walgreens. Chi had a background in pharmacy and had been working with big chains for years. A transplant who fell in love with the changing seasons of the South, the Canadian native had worked his way up through Walgreens and was on the business track for company leadership. Yet something didn’t feel quite right.
“I came to the realization while I was working for big pharmacy that quality of care mattered to me more than quantity of customers,” said Chi. “Innately, I knew that independent pharmacy was where I needed to be.”
A parallel customer-focused philosophy and desire to build something extraordinary soon led to a new partnership. Chi left his job to team up with Vic, managing the original Carolina Pharmacy Rock Hill location for the next eight years. As their loyal customer base grew rapidly, Carolina Pharmacy acquired four Lancaster, South Carolina independent pharmacies in that same period.
It wasn’t always easy. Balancing growing a business and providing the utmost in service with life outside of work was like a jigsaw puzzle at times.
“I’m sure a lot of small business owners totally get it when I say that business mixes with life,” says Chi. “It comes home with you – you don’t just turn it off at the end of the day.”
Old school, new growth
By 2016, the team was operating four Carolina Pharmacy locations, including a new site at the Arboretum. Around the same time, they got the opportunity to purchase Walker Drug in the Cotswold neighborhood of Charlotte. 98 years old at the time of purchase, Walker Drug’s renowned neighborhood reputation as a caring hometown pharmacy fit seamlessly with Carolina Pharmacy’s relationship-driven, patient-centered values. The addition of the historic drug store to the Carolina Pharmacy family marked a turning point for Carolina Pharmacy, who had already grown as a leader in the independent pharmacy industry and in the community.
“By the time Walker Drug joined us, we had really transitioned from a mom-and-pop shop to a top independent pharmacy,” said Vic. “We now had the capabilities of big pharmacy – and in some cases, even more capabilities – but held true to that hometown feel and core values of customer care and service first.”
Carolina Pharmacy was filling a unique niche in the Charlotte, Rock Hill and Lancaster communities. With a modern website and app, they were bringing in a younger demographic and pioneering contemporary pharmacy care. But with their high-touch care, focus on convenience, and plans to give back to the community, they were now a destination for healthcare.
The prescription for pharmaceutical success
The pandemic of 2020 and 2021 proved to be pivotal years for many, including Vic and Chi. Healthcare and approaches to healthcare have grown in importance. The Carolina Pharmacy team believes in supporting local and small businesses like their own, and are committed to patient education, including around COVID-19 and the COVID vaccination. Vic and Chi believe that more involved direct patient care is the future foundation of pharmacy practice, and they continue to look for ways to lead in the technology, convenience, and services they offer customers. They hope to continue to share the many ways that independent pharmacies are putting consumers first.
“Undoubtedly, community pharmacies in years to come will serve greater and greater roles when it comes to delivery of care,” said Chi. “We have the training and the knowledge to assess, educate, and work hand-in-hand with medical caregivers to provide a full care experience.”