Story and photos by BRITTNI STRICKLAND
Lloyd Thomas, a University of Utah alumnus who owns the pharmacy inside Roy Winegars, recently reminisced about his 46 years as a pharmacist during a phone interview with Voices of Utah.
Thomas first realized he wanted to be in the pharmacy industry at a career day as a sophomore in high school. Thomas grew up in South Ogden, Utah, and recalled going into the local pharmacy thinking it had “really neat smells.” Thomas also watched his uncle own a pharmacy and said he knew it was an opportunity for him to help people. So, he had to take it.
“There aren’t a lot of people who know what they want to do so young, I was lucky,” Thomas said, chuckling.
He opened the Winegars pharmacy in 1995 at 3444 W. 4800 South, in Roy. Winegars is one of the oldest family-owned supermarkets in the state of Utah and values the name of a “Home Town Grocer,” according to the website. Winegars is a convenient grocery store near the center of the city.
Thomas is specifically known in the Roy community for his unique customer care.
Sheri Tanner said her mother has been coming to the Roy Winegars pharmacy for 20 years, since it opened. Tanner still comes to the same pharmacy to pick up her mother’s prescriptions simply because of the quality care. “When I come get her medicine they always say ‘how’s your mom doing?’ and it’s very personal,” Tanner said.
Julie Arthur, a resident of Roy, has shopped at the local pharmacy for 15 years because of the personal service. “Every time I go in I feel like they genuinely care about your health, they’re not just doing their job,” Arthur said. She said she trusts the Roy pharmacy because she feels that the pharmacy staff is very knowledgeable and willing to answer her questions regarding prescriptions.
Thomas said he believes treating customers well is key. “People don’t care how much you know, it’s how much you care,” he said.
Being the owner of his own pharmacy, Thomas said he’s in control of the prices, where products are bought and whom he hires and fires. His pharmacy is independent, so he can focus more on customer care rather than being told to focus on money. He also said it’s more fun that way: “When you’re not intent on making money, it just comes.” Thomas said he prefers to shop where people love what they do, so he makes sure that that is clear in his pharmacy.
Customers head to the west side of the store, where the pharmacy is located. Even from a distance it is easy to sense the passion and camaraderie. Taped to the counter of the pharmacy are quotes, comics and obituaries of loyal customers. Behind the gray counter, two or three employees stand with smiles on their faces and a hello to give.
Nick Lucas has worked as an employee for Thomas for 20 years. Lucas quickly brought up Thomas’ heart for the customers. “He looks at it as extended family for some of these people,” Lucas said. “It’s a tough standard to live up to, he’s a great man.” Lucas learned the art of caring for customers simply by spending time around Thomas and watching him work with people. “He’s a great boss, but a better person,” Lucas said.
Location and loyal customers are what keeps the pharmacy up and running to this day. “It’s the only reason we have a job is because of them,” Thomas said. Having the pharmacy inside Winegars has been an ideal location because it is one of the more popular grocery stores in town where people can shop and pick up their prescription in a timely manner.
Thomas joked about how interesting it is that it is now a popular occurrence to have a pharmacy in a grocery store, compared to when he first began as a pharmacist. There wasn’t a single grocery store in the area that had a pharmacy. He said pharmacies are now more popular because people are living a lot longer and there is a lot of new medicine available.
Now that people are living longer, Thomas said convenience has become an issue in our society. “Everyone’s time is valuable,” Thomas said.
Customers such as Julie Arthur appreciate that consideration. “At other pharmacies I’ve noticed a longer wait time, and when you’re sick you don’t want to just stand around,” she said. The Roy Winegars pharmacy promises to have prescriptions out as quickly as possible, usually with a wait time no longer than five minutes.
Timely service is one thing Thomas has learned during his two decades as a pharmacist. With his years of experience also come numerous memories. “There are so many great memories, that I couldn’t come up with one,” he said. However, Thomas remembered winning the “Bowl of Hygeia” award in 2013. According to the website, the prestigious honor “recognized pharmacists who possess outstanding records of civic leadership in their community.” He said it truly was an honor to win that award.
Thomas made clear that the customers are why he stays in the pharmacy industry by saying, “I love people, I love to help people.”