A local family-owned pharmacy is just one year away from celebrating 40-years of serving O’Fallon and Lake Saint Louis residents.
When Sandy and Marlene Palens first opened Wharf Healthmart Pharmacy in Lake Saint Louis in November 1973, business wasn’t quite booming.
“It was kind of slow going at first, there weren’t many houses out here,” Shanna Palens, vice president of marketing said.
But as St. Charles County continued to grow, so did the family business.
Today Wharf Pharmacy is located at 2175 W Terra Lane in Peruque Crossing Shopping Center, at the border of O’Fallon and Lake St. Louis, where they moved in 2006.
The pharmacy has been in the family for almost 40 years.
Shanna’s husband Andy decided to follow in his father Sandy’s footsteps, and after graduating from St. Louis College of Pharmacy and marrying Shanna in 1989, he went to work at Wharf.
When Andy’s parents retired in 2000, Shanna and Andy bought the store.
Today the Wentzville couple runs the pharmacy, which has expanded from its original 3,000 square feet to 10,000.
With the expansion, the Palens added a drive through and a medical equipment section.
Wharf Pharmacy is a certified compound pharmacy, which means they custom make medication from raw ingredients.
Shanna said the pharmacy does a lot of hormone compounds, offering women a hormone test to find out what they are short on.
“We can make a medication specifically for that,” she said. “There are only so many medications on the shelves and they only come in so many dosages.”
The pharmacy also produces flavored medications for kids and pets. Pharmacists are also able to change medication forms from pills to liquid if that’s easier for a customer.
Inside of Wharf Pharmacy you’ll not only find medications, but a self-serve Kodak Kiosk, greeting cards, T-shirts, holiday decorations and other knick-knacks.
Shanna said one service that makes the pharmacy stand out is the free local delivery, which has grown significantly in the past five years.
“Some people don’t like to use it, they think it’s only for if you’re really sick,” Shanna said. “But if you’ve got two kids at home and you’re trying to make dinner, free delivery is just fine.”
Wharf Pharmacy Awards/Recognition:2010
- Awarded Small Business of the Year by the Wentzville Chamber of Commerce.
- Wharf Pharmacy is awarded Small Business of the Year by the Lake St. Louis Chamber of Commerce.
- Wharf Pharmacy is selected by Suburban Journal readers as the Best Pharmacy
- Wharf Pharmacy is awarded National Independent Pharmacy of the Year.
Pharmacy Changes With the Times, Accomodates More Customer Needs
On the other side of Wharf Healthmart Pharmacy is Midwest Home Medical Equipment, where customers can find health equipment supplies.
Shanna said the family sort of fell into the medical equipment business by accident one day.
“We had some older customers come up and they were coming in because they trusted my father-in-law and husband, “ she said.
When the longtime customer said his wife had to be on oxygen, and asked if the pharmacy could help, Andy said of course.
When Shanna reminded him they didn’t offer that service, he said he’d figure it out.
Now Midwest Home Medical Equipment offers customers wheelchairs, scooters, canes, ramps, walkers, lift recliners, oxygen systems, hand-held showers and many other health supplies.
Shanna said Andy has a hard time saying no to customers, but it is this attitude that has helped Wharf Pharmacy continue to thrive and grow all these years.
According to the Palens, the secret to sustaining a successful small business, is embracing change and providing good customer service.
“We’ve been embedded in this community for a long, long time, we have customers that we’ve had for over 30 years,” Shanna said. “We have very loyal customers and we’re blessed that way.”
While Wharf Pharmacy employees around 24 people in the community, it is still very much a family affair.
Shanna said her father-in-law Sandy occasionally works a night shift and fills in once in awhile.
“People will come in and he’ll say, ‘I remember when you would come in as a child’ and now they come in with own children,” Shanna said.
She added that both of her children worked at the store and it was fun to occasionally see all three generations working side –by-side.
She thinks it is this familiarity that keeps customers coming back.
“The store has a small town feel, but we have all the conveniences,” she said.
Wharf Healthmart Pharmacy is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For more information, check them out on Facebook or call 636-887-4008.