Eastman’s Pharmacy shuts doors

by Kate Bradshaw | 2/26/14 9:21pm

Last Wednesday, after 75 years of business, Eastman’s Pharmacy filled its last prescription and closed its doors. Its clients will now be sent 1,000 feet down South Main Street to CVS Pharmacy or receive prescriptions by mail.

Owner Mark Knight said business took a devastating hit in January when Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, in a move meant to save the hospital costs, imposed mandatory mail-order prescriptions for its insured employees. For medications that require regular refills, clients now face sharp increases in co-payments if they choose to patronize pharmacies not listed by the medical center’s insurance providers.

DHMC outpatient pharmacy manager Linda Sawyer could not be reached for comment by press time.

Mark and Melissa Knight have run the store since 2005. The husband-and-wife team said that, in just a few years, they reversed the decline in customers that started when CVS came to Hanover in 2004 and turned their pharmacy into a profitable business.

Eastman’s Pharmacy opened after the Great Hurricane of 1938, Mark Knight said. Since then, the business has filled the prescriptions of its local residents, taking pride in its personalized pharmaceuticals and face-to-face interactions.

The Knights said they adapted the business by catering to a niche market, working with clients who prioritized local, small-town atmosphere.

“People want interaction and good advice from their pharmacist,” Mark Knight said.

Mark Knight oversaw business operations while his wife worked the pharmacy counter. Melissa Knight filled patient-specific prescriptions, creating the proper dosages for her clients in pill, liquid or even topical or gel form, depending on their personal needs. The business also began offering home prescription deliveries in order to compete with mail-order pharmaceutical companies.

Mark Knight expressed pride in the pharmacy’s success but acknowledged the financial difficulties that DHMC’s new mandatory mail-order pharmaceutical policy would impose on local business.

New Hampshire Independent Pharmacy Association vice president Ron Petrin explained that independent pharmacies like Eastman’s have to compete with two different forms of pharmacy businesses, chain and mail-order pharmacies. Neither of these offer the personal relationships that neighborhood pharmacists can provide, he said.

Petrin added that prescription compliance rates tend to be higher when clients know their pharmacists and interact with them face-to-face.

Sarah Colon ’17, who initially patronized Eastman’s due to its proximity to campus, said she quickly grew to appreciate its customer care.

“After going to Eastman’s just a few times, the women working there knew me by name,” Colon said in an email. “They were incredibly personable, always asking me about my day and my life. It was enjoyable to go there.”

Since closing last week, the Knights have started a 30-day transition period, in which they will greet old customers at CVS.

“That’s the tough part,” said Mark Knight, “breaking all these relationships that we’ve built up over the last few years.”