By John R. Schirmer
In 1972, a young couple not long out of college wanted to open a pharmacy in Nashville’s South Park Shopping Center. They managed to borrow the money, and the new business saw its first customers in February.
Now, Power Pharmacy is making plans for its 50th anniversary celebration. The event will be held April 14 at 1310 S. Fourth St.
April 14 was picked for a reason. It’s the 77th birthday of the late Jim Power, who opened the pharmacy with his wife Cheryl, according to the couple’s daughter, Jenny Marie Westbrook.
When Jim and Cheryl started thinking about a new pharmacy in Nashville, “We couldn’t get a small business loan. He borrowed the money from Dr. John Wesson. Jim and I were the only employees,” Cheryl said.
The first customer was Jim Bailey, according to Cheryl. He’s been invited to the anniversary.
In 1977, the store moved to the current location on South Fourth.
Jim’s interest in opening a pharmacy began long before Power Pharmacy opened. “Jim always wanted to start a pharmacy,” Cheryl said. He had worked at Nashville Drug, where “he and Clyde [Keaster] were best friends. Clyde mentioned that Jim always wanted to own a store.”
The business has expanded over the years and now has 18 employees. Gifts were added “after Dad died,” Jenny said, “around 1997 or so.”
Now, the store offers wedding and baby registries and will deliver gifts to showers.
Jacque Howard, who has worked at Power Pharmacy for 48 years, said Jim was “a man who wanted everything done right. He wanted customers to leave happy. He was very professional, not sloppy at all.”
For a time, Power Pharmacy also had stores in Ashdown and De Queen. Howard, a pharmacist, “was the floater. I went to each store,” she said.
Howard said she came straight out of pharmacy school. “I learned a lot from him. He was an astute business person.”
When Jim deployed to Saudi Arabia with the military, Howard kept the pharmacy department running in his absence. “Everybody is so used to Miss Jacque,” Jenny said. “We wouldn’t be here without her.”
As the business grew, more employees were added. There were five by 1990. Cheryl taught at Nashville Primary School and ran the business from 1995-2009. She then retired from teaching and went to the store full-time.
Now, “I’ve been running the store longer than he did,” Cheryl said.
Jenny was a nurse, first at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and later at UAMS, before returning to Nashville. “In 2011, an employee was leaving. I moved home. I wanted Allie to live here.”
As a registered nurse, Jenny is able to administer shots, including Covid-19, shingles, pneumonia, tetanus and others.
Along with adding a gift department and other services, the pharmacy has more pharmacists than it did on opening day in 1972. They include Howard, Charlie Easterling and Karon Bailey. Rachel Foshee will join the staff in May.
The rest of the staff has grown as well. Saundra Fuentes and Kim Raulerson have been there 38 years each, and a number of other staffers are part of the business as well.
The mix of veteran and more recent staff members provides continuity for the business. “I feel blessed here. We’re able to serve our community,” Cheryl said.
Along with more staff members, the business has incorporated technology over the years. “When we started, Jim had a manual typewriter,” Cheryl said. Later, he was “the first to use a computer system. Our ordering is done electronically. Insurance has drastically changed.”
Raulerson works on the insurance aspect of the business, including Medicare and Medicaid requirements.
She also has to “counsel patients. I call on the phone to counsel them” in compliance with regulations. She and other staff members also remind patients to come pick up their prescriptions.
“We’re penalized if they don’t pick up their medications,” Cheryl said. “A prescription can’t sit over two weeks.”
In addition to keeping up with regulations and serving customers in the store and by making deliveries, the pharmacy also has a social media presence. Allie works at the business and is responsible for much of what’s on social media, she said.
It’s all part of serving the community, according to Cheryl and Jenny. “We’re really committed to serving our clients and keeping Jim’s legacy alive,” Cheryl said.
“I know what the store meant to my dad. People still come in and tell us how he helped them,” according to Jenny. “He left a legacy.”
Pharmacist Baxley has been at Power for about 2 1/2 years. “I love it,” he said. “It’s a great place to practice pharmacy. The people are great to work with. It’s good to get up and come to work here.”
As Raulerson said, “We’re just family.”