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End of an Era: A perspective from Vandalia Drug owner Joe Salois

Posted on Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at 2:37 am

Editor’s Note: I am giving my editorial space this week to Vandalia Drug owner Joe Salois, printed as submitted.
Quick Lydia update: She now weighs 4 lbs., 9 oz. She was out of the isolette but is now back in due to apneia issues. Your continued prayers are appreciated.
“Back in 1972 John Fitzgerald and Hal Clinton decided to join their 2 pharmacies and formed “Vandalia Drug”.  In the summer of 1978 a young pharmacy school student named Joe Salois was working there for the second of 3 summers when he was introduced to a cute young lady named Debbie Syler working the soda fountain.  Just 2 years later the two were married and went out to make their way in the world.  In July 1995, Joe and Debbie came back and bought Vandalia Drug and completed a circle 17 years in the making.”
That is part of the story on the back of the menus at the soda fountain of Vandalia Drug that has greeted friends, family and visitors for the last 18 years.  When Debbie and I were looking into the idea of buying the pharmacy I told her “Honey even if it doesn’t work we will still have been able to enjoy a little piece of Americana that most pharmacists never will”.  Well it’s been a long time now and I guess it “worked out” as we are still in business, but back in 2009 we began to think about selling the store.  You see over the last 18 years I have missed 3 days to illness and the longest I have ever been away from the store was 4 days and that was usually during a holiday weekend or while going to classes so I wouldn‘t inconvenience my patients more than necessary.  To be honest, with no relief help I was getting tired!  There were more things to consider but that was a big factor, as well as stress, owning your own business is not all peaches and cream you know.
Well as most of you have heard we have come to an agreement to sell the pharmacy to Niemann Foods Inc. also known around here as County Market.  While Debbie and I are happy to be involved with a fine corporation like NFI we are also torn because we have worked very hard to preserve our little piece of Americana and will miss that most of all.  That’s right the Soda Fountain and the “Home of the Nickel Cup of Coffee” will be no more and will be sorely missed.  We tried to find a buyer who might want to keep the coffee counter and keep the tradition alive but all potential buyers planned on moving the pharmacy to another location, so we tried to decide which offer would work out best for us and the town.  I believe we have found just that in County Market, this allows us to have a pharmacy in town and it’s in a convenient location.  I will stay on and move to the new location as will my help, so you will still get great service and friendly associates.  There may be a few changes to get used to as new ownership may have a few ideas but we will try to keep the major changes to a minimum, but with a larger buyer group and a smaller footprint we should be able to hold prices as good as ever, maybe even better.  I will leave the introduction of any new or different services to the new ownership, but there will be a few changes to the current store as we prepare to move on.
The time frame we are working with is approximately 60 days, so as would be expected the charge accounts will need to be paid up in the near future, and no new charges or held tickets will be available as of the 1st of August 2013.
The soda fountain and Nickel Coffee counter will be open for as long as possible so be sure to come in with your camera and grandkids for one final trip down memory lane, and you might want to pick up one of our commemorative coffee mugs for a souvenir.   Of all the things we will miss that will be the most painful, I wanted to keep the tradition going as long as I could and while the fountain never made money I always told people it was a hobby and no one makes money at their hobby.
The building and many features inside will eventually go on sale but probably not for about 6 months.
As we move on to new horizons I would like to take this time to thank a few people as this adventure would have never been possible without them.  I would first like to thank John Fitzgerald and Hal Clinton for giving me this opportunity to live the dream and for all the help they gave us.  My family was ripped from the town and school they loved to move here, and my wife had to have total faith in me and my plans for our future.
Debbie proceeded to raise two fine gentlemen and keep a house and business in harmony while I spent most every waking moment here at the store or in town, and for that I will never be able to repay her or offer enough “ I’m Sorry’s”.
Over the years I have had lots of great help and the list of those helpers would be long and I would surely miss a few so let me just say that I hope they enjoyed their time working here as much as we enjoyed having them.  But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one in particular, for the last 13 plus years Brandy Green has been my assistant manager/right hand girl/ and friend and I dare say I would have had a nervous breakdown by now without her help.
I would especially like to thank the town for welcoming us with open arms and great support, without which none of this would have been possible.  Speaking of support, every business I ever needed help from always came through in times of need for us or the community, I especially want to thank the First National Bank of Audrain County and Martinsburg Bank for believing in us and always being there when we needed them. Finally-Let me say how much I appreciate being allowed to be your “Home Town Pharmacist” for 18 years and I hope to see you all at our new location.  Thank you and thank God!