Walgreens buying Pfaff Pharmacy business

Marie Havenga • Mar 13, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Pfaff Pharmacy customers won't have to worry about refilling their prescriptions once the nearly century-old business closes for good tonight.

Newaygo-based Hometown Pharmacy, which has owned Pfaff Pharmacy since 2013, is selling the business to Walgreens. All prescriptions will be automatically transferred to the Walgreens store at 510 N. Beacon Blvd. in Grand Haven.

Walgreens is only purchasing the Pfaff Pharmacy business, not the building and not the rest of the inventory.

Hometown Pharmacy has been leasing the building at 1125 Washington Ave. There will not be a Walgreens store opening at that location, according to Jim Grice, senior vice president for Hometown Pharmacy.

Most of the Pfaff inventory will be distributed to other Hometown Pharmacy locations, he said.

Grice worked the soda fountain at Pfaff Pharmacy on Monday. He said he wanted to be available to answer any questions customers may have about the closing scheduled for 7 p.m. today.

“I know we're taking a ton of heat (after the decision to close),” he said Monday. “I was here working the soda fountain on Saturday and I'm here again today. I'd rather be here than having our employees take the heat for it. This has been a decision that was not taken lightly.”

Grice said Pfaff Pharmacy has experienced two straight years of losses, and management tried to steer through those losses.

But, in December 2017, the company learned that due to changes with Priority Health, Pfaff Pharmacy would no longer be considered in-network, meaning that Pfaff would not be a viable choice for Priority Health customers.

“They limited the network pharmacies in some communities,” Grice said. “And this pharmacy is not in-network.”

Grice said the decision to close the Grand Haven location, one of 41 operated by Hometown Pharmacy, was agonizing. Hometown isn't planning to close any other locations at this time, he added.

“As a decision-maker in this process, it's mixed emotions,” Grice said. “We're very sad to not be in Grand Haven anymore. We've walked in the parade, we've been part of the vitamin program for kids, we've really invested in the community with our time. Decisions like this aren't made for fun. That's why I'm down here. We're not a large corporate entity. We're family owned and, when we have to make a decision like this, it's not without a ton of angst.”

Grice said he gave Pfaff Pharmacy more time to right the ship than he would give other locations because his family has ties to Grand Haven.

“We've kept operating it because it's Pfaff, because it's Grand Haven and our family is all from around here,” he said. “Other stores we've closed in the past, we've moved quicker on. We were hoping to find a way to revive the business, so we gave it a lot of extra time.”

Grice said it's not known what will become of the iconic soda fountain, a staple at Pfaff's since it opened in 1923.

“I'm keeping a list of interested parties,” he said. “I recognize its significance to this community and its historic value. The historical society has been an organization that's been mentioned. Whatever works best for this town is what I want for it.”

Grice said working the soda fountain the past couple of days has been a rewarding experience, and helped him understand how deeply rooted Pfaff Pharmacy is in the community.

“Everyone who comes in is reminiscing,” he said. “I've heard a lot of folks say things like, 'This was my first job.' Everyone loves sitting at the soda fountain and having a drink.”

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