SYLACAUGA, Ala. – In a world where local pharmacies seemingly disappear daily from small towns, whether from local owners selling to large chains or large chains willingly merging with other large pharmacies, it is nothing short of amazing that one local pharmacy is continuing to thrive with insurmountable odds stacked against it.
Marble City Pharmacy opened 15 years ago, May 27, 2003, at the very same spot it occupies on W. Fort Williams St. It will hold an anniversary celebration on Tuesday, June 5, with prizes, giveaways and great food.
Today, brothers Jacob and Jared Johnson co-own the store. But 15 years ago, the foundation was laid for the two brothers to have the success they continue to achieve today.
Jared and Jacob’s father, Danny Johnson, opened the pharmacy with James Hobson. Two years after opening, the co-owners hired Jacob as a pharmacist. Three years later, Hobson passed away, leaving Jacob with an opportunity to buy Hobson’s stock in the business.
He did just that.
Four years after becoming business partner’s with his son, Danny retired leaving an opening for Jared to move into the family owned and operated pharmacy as co-owner with his brother.
Starting a pharmacy from scratch was difficult for the family. Jacob explained his father, along with Hobson, did not buy out another pharmacy and fill out its prescriptions. Instead, they started with zero prescriptions and worked their way up.
“We’ve been here and we started from scratch,’ said Jacob. “We didn’t buy a pharmacy and fill their prescriptions. We started from zero prescriptions on day-one and built up a nice base of clients.”
But how did a family from Hueytown, not Sylacauga, make Marble City Pharmacy work when in many cities, the only pharmacies you see are the chains?
Jared said it all started with the pharmacy’s slogan many years ago, “Marble City Pharmacy, the way a drug store used to be.”
“The big pharmacies don’t know who you are, they don’t know your family, and your medical conditions. Therefore, they can’t be the best service for you,” Jared explained. “Think back to the time when everyone in a family knew their pharmacist, that’s who my dad and James [Hobson] wanted to be. They wanted people to be a part of our family, and we still treat people like our family today.”
Today, with a very established business, the motto has changed but still has the same meaning. Jared explained the new motto the pharmacy is using is, “Marble City Pharmacy – Here for life.”
“Our plan is to be here until we are physically unable to work anymore. We aren’t going anywhere and we certainly aren’t selling to anyone else,” he said. “As long as we can work we are going to be here for your family.”
The phrase also has a second meaning. “It tells our customers that everything we do is to help them live their lives to the fullest,” Jared said. “You can’t live life to the fullest if you aren’t healthy. You can’t be healthy unless you take your medication correctly, and you can’t take your medication correctly unless your pharmacist is teaching you the things that you need to know.”
But how does Marble City Pharmacy make these promises happen? What the two brothers practice today has been instilled in them since they were kids.
Jacob explained their father taught them how to treat and care for people at a young age, teaching them to do much more than what is required to make a profit.
“We want every business and every person in this city to be successful. We probably don’t deserve how good the people here have been to us so we make sure we take care of them as best as possible.” said Jacob. “My goal everyday is to do something to brighten the day of a person that comes in Marble City Pharmacy.”
“At the core I’m a people person. I’m here to make you well. Whether if it’s with medicine, by listening to the customers or speaking to the customers, making them feel welcome. We are here to make people better.”
“I hope what we mean to the community is that we’re a place where people know they can go for literally the highest quality healthcare that there is,” said Jared.
Jacob agreed that is the key. He said the chains have all the benefits in the world that enable them to roll over the small and local pharmacies, but he is not worried. “As long as people have a choice on where they fill their prescriptions, if we are personable to our customers, attentive to their needs, and more willing to go out of our way to take care of them, we will still be here. That’s how we survive and got to where we are.”
The team at Marble City Pharmacy impacts people’s lives on a daily basis, and the Johnsons take pride in that.
But more than anything, they take pride in being part of Sylacauga.
“I’ve been places where people don’t want to have a sense of community, but people here aren’t like that,” Jacob explained. “I get to work in a city everyday where people want a sense of community and Marble City Pharmacy gets to be a small part of people’s everyday life.”
So today, and every other day for that matter, you can find the two brothers, Jacob and Jared, along with their staff of 17-18, smiling, listening and helping you obtain the best healthcare around.