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Just what the doctor ordered: The human touch
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Brian Cole has owned and operated Bobs Pharmacy on E. Yosemite Avenue for the last 13 years. He prides himself in providing customer service that goes above and beyond what people might find at chain drug stores. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin

Brian Cole was still relatively new to the world of pharmacology when he approached the owner of Bob’s Pharmacy to inquire about buying the business.

He didn’t have all of the money to buy it outright. After all, he had only been out of school for seven years and had only spent a portion of that time working for a national chain store as part of a team of pharmacists – long enough to realize that scene just wasn’t for him.

But the owner saw something in him – passion. The desire to go out into the world and make a go at it.

So he played the role of the bank and worked with him to make the transaction work. And Cole kept up his end of the bargain by offering the same level of customer service that the previous owner, and founder, had established long ago – winning award after award from the community in the process.

The Bulletin caught up with him to find out what makes him tick and what the secret is to keeping customers happy:

What made you want to go into business for yourself?

“You know when you buy a business that there are risks involved. But you’re better off in making a business into the way that you’ve envisioned it – it’s not the same corporate thing that you see every day. It’s rewarding when you see people that are happy with what you provide them and it comes from something that is yours.”

You’ve won a handful of Best of Manteca awards and just recently were selected as the Readers Choice for Best Pharmacy. What is it like to see that?

“It’s great – we get customers that come in here and once they’re established they know that they’re going to be taken care of. They appreciate us helping them, and you have to work hard to keep them happy because they always have the option to go somewhere else. Typically that’s not what you want to see.”

What prompted you to go into pharmacology?

“I’ve always been interested in medical things, and it seemed like a good opportunity – when I was in college pharmacists were in high demand and I was always interested in the public service aspect of the job. I enjoy being part of the community – it’s one of the perks of the job.”

What are some of the ways that go above and beyond for customers?

“For example, I just got a phone call from a customer that wanted to know something about a medication. Sometimes they’ll call their doctor and they won’t get a call back for the rest of the day. They know that they can call here and within 30 seconds I’ll be on the phone with them to answer any questions that they have. One of the things that we do here that you don’t find at chain pharmacies is have actual people answer the phone – it’s not that we’re anti-technology, but I think that somebody should be there to talk to you when you need it. People enjoy that. They appreciate the human aspect to it.”

You read stories about doctors that are afraid to prescribe certain medications because they’re being watched by the DEA or other agencies. Has that filtered down to the pharmacy level?

“That’s one of the harder aspects of the business, but we also have technology that allows us to put a patients name and birthday in and we’re able to see every doctor that they’ve seen and every pharmacy that they’ve been to so we can see if there’s a problem there with certain types of medication. Sometimes we have to step in and tell somebody that we think that they might have a problem based on those patterns. Unfortunately drug addiction is something that you see from time to time, but maybe stepping in and saying something can change somebody’s life.”

How has the landscape changed in the 13 years since you’ve been a business owner in terms of insurance companies and the like?

“One of the biggest things we’ve seen is the change to Medicare – that’s a great help to seniors and makes a lot more medications available. I haven’t seen much of a change from Obamacare yet. Maybe that’s something that will be coming in the future.”

You have eight employees here. Is there an added responsibility that comes with having people that work for you?

“I think that there’s that responsibility there knowing that their livelihoods depend you as well. Their paychecks and their ability to pay their bills is directly linked to your business, and they’re a part of your team – you want to take care of the people that are doing what they can for you and your business. There’s definitely an element of that there.”

Bob’s Pharmacy is located at 629 E. Yosemite Avenue, and is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. They’re closed on weekends. For more information call (209) 823-2174.

To contact Jason Campbell, email or call (209) 249-3544.