by Michael Abbey
What a difference 40 years make. In the 70s, I frequented Alpha Stereo and TV. Fast forward to 2015 and a fire we all remember: the reincarnation of that row of commercial outlets now houses, among others, Whole Health Pharmacy Glebe. I met recently with Renu Pillay, owner and operator of Whole Health Pharmacy, and he brought me up to speed on his new pharmacy.
Pillay is a Certified Diabetes Educator, as evidenced by a handful of certifications adorning the wall. He is in tune with and sensitive to a holistic and preventive approach to human health. In addition to standard home health care material, he offers custom fitting for a wide range of products desirable to seniors but used as required by all ages. His supplier can deliver most custom apparatuses the next business day including a wide range of compression stockings and support braces, especially sports related. He has the flexibility to order from any vendor he chooses and plans to keep current with their offerings. He is confident that the custom offerings will please more of his clients than over-the-counter goods from other establishments. “I measure each one separately to ensure the customer gets the best and longest lasting fit.”
He has the turnkey relationship with Ontario Drug Benefit and the assortment of third party benefit plans commonly used by employers and many people who self-fund their add-on health benefits.
Whole Health Pharmacy is a franchise with its head office in Mississauga. Each store is independent. Says Pillay, “In terms of Whole Health Pharmacy, it’s a very loose individual banner. Each store is allowed to keep what is unique to its neighbourhood. They give me support but don’t tell me how to run my store.” His association with the “mother ship” allows him to tap into their buying power. His point-of-sale software is independent of the franchise, although Whole Pharmacy supplies some high tech, mainly the interface between his store and the franchise.
The Whole Health Pharmacy Glebe layout and décor is appropriately simple, with shelf upon shelf of medicine and assorted wares neatly arranged. We discussed the junk food display near the cash register and I was pleased to hear that these goods are not moving well. Watch for changes in this area.
Pillay is not new to the pharmacy business, having owned a Shoppers’ Drugmart and managed three Rexall locations in the past. He has flexibility with inventory and is sensitive to the demographics of existing and potential customers. His intent is to attract and keep new clientele through personalized service, concentrating on the idiosyncrasies of each person. His ability to deal with any vendor allows him to pass cost savings on to his customers. “I can decide my prices, including the markup I place on each item.” He offers a 10 per cent discount for seniors on a large portion of his inventory six days a week, and 20 per cent for seniors on Wednesdays. Prescription renewal can be handled via email.
Pillay’s daughter works part-time for now and his next hire will be in the near future.
One of my standard inquiries is “Why the Glebe?” and Pillay’s response is in line with what I hear elsewhere: the Lord Lansdowne’s, the Colonel By’s and The Glebe Centre’s proximity are a compelling influence on his choice of location. The foot traffic is an attraction as well for Pillay as is the plethora of parking spots on and around Bank Street. He looked on Wellington as well as in the Glebe and judged that the Glebe offered more potential.
If the presence of Whole Foods in Lansdowne trips you up when speaking about Whole Health Pharmacy, welcome to the club.
Michael Abbey is a retired high-tech professional and bridge enthusiast who writes about business for the Glebe Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Prefer Majors.
Whole Health Pharmacy Glebe
857A Bank Street
9 a.m. – 7 p.m. Mon/Tue/Thu/Fri
9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Wed
11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sat/Sun