Gilmer’s Pharmacy celebrates 60 years of service

On March 1, 1957, Ron Gilmer first opened the door of Gilmer’s Pharmacy in the village of Iroquois. Now, 60 years later, two more generations of Gilmers are celebrating the Pharmacy’s continuing service to South Dundas and beyond.

Gilmer’s Pharmacy was the scene of cake, balloons, and lots of good wishes on Wednesday, March 8, 2017, as friends, customers and local dignitaries dropped by with best wishes on 60 years in business.

Gathered to greet them were Ron Gilmer, 90 years old, founder of the original pharmacy, pharmacists Doug and Tracey (Gilmer) Stewart and third year pharmacology student at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, Ryan Gilmer. South Dundas mayor Evonne Delegarde congratulated the Gilmers on keeping their business in the community for 60 years and presented them with a certificate of recognition.

Sue Dingwall, representing MP Guy Lauzon, offered up congratulations and expressed the MP’s gratitude for “everything you do for this community.” South Dundas council members Jim Locke and Bill Ewing also took part in the celebration.

In March of 2007 the Leader ran a special story on the 50th anniversary of Gilmer’s.

When Ron started the business, the work of preparing and dispensing prescriptions was very hands on: the average price of a prescription was often around $3, with dispensing fees built right into that cost. Times have changed.

“When we look back at the old records,” said Tracey Stewart, “it sometimes took all day just to fill 10 prescriptions. What was eight months work in the 1950s now takes about a day with computers and pre-made drugs.”

In the 2007 story, Ron talked about how many prescriptions, in the early years, “ended up on the doctor’s lawn. People would get a prescription, but couldn’t afford to get it filled, so they would just drop it on the doctor’s lawn when they left.”

The advent of drug plans and health care have made a definite difference for patients. Nowadays, however, Gilmer’s Pharmacy means a great deal more in the community than just a place to get a prescription filled.

“We know our patients,” said Tracey. “We have known some of them for years, and we know their families as well. We can greet most of our patients by name.” This is an advantage. People feel comfortable coming into a community business like Gilmer’s.

“People regularly approach us with questions,” Tracey explained. “And with wait times at clinics and delays in emergency rooms, a lot of people come to us in a kind of informal triage. We talk to them, listen to the situation, help them as best we can, but we also send them to the hospital when we know it’s necessary.”

Because of this strong link to the community and to area people, Tracey, Doug and now Ryan often serve as advocates when a patient is dealing with insurance or third party health care. “We are often called on to interpret changes in health care, to explain new rules, to work with a patient,” said Doug. Both Doug and Tracey feel there is a very strong need for community pharmacies like Gilmer’s.

“We are close by, friendly and people rely on us,” said Doug. Business has been “steady and good” according to Tracey and Doug.

They are partners in Gilmer’s Pharmacy, while Ron remains involved “on paper” as the founder.

“Dad’s 90 and seems agreeable to letting Doug and me make the decisions now,” Tracey laughed.

Ten years have seen several changes in the pharmacology business. “We are far more government regulated, and there is more paper work than ever before,” said Doug. “Pharmacies also deal with intensive inspections by “practice advisors” sent from the College of Pharmacy, who often focus on patient care and dialogue.”

However, the third generation of Gilmers is already working in the business with an eye to the future.

While none of Tracey’s children has expressed an interest in the business “as yet”, Doug’s son Ryan is studying pharmacology in an accelerated programme, and actively involved in working at the pharmacy.

His father and aunt laugh that he definitely has long term plans for Gilmer’s Pharmacy, but some of them may wait “at least until we retire.” In the meantime, Gilmer’s Pharmacy, a welcome part of the South Dundas business community, celebrates 60 years with a pledge to continue to serve patients, and to continue to “be involved in community events and activities.”