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REOPENED SMALL-TOWN PHARMACY USES MARKETING TO COMPETE WITH CHAIN

The new owners of the nearly 130-year-old Gowanda Pharmacy have been employing big-city merchandising strategies to draw customers.

Last summer, the drugstore closed after the Pennsylvania-based Rite Aid chain, with a spacious new outlet about a block away on Main Street, bought the prescription files and inventory of the old pharmacy.

But the doors of the old pharmacy didn't stay locked for long.

The clamors of many of Gowanda's 2,000 residents persuaded Donald M. Nash Jr., a Tri-County Memorial Hospital pharmacist, to bankroll the return of the old-time drugstore, which served generations of Gowanda residents since the 1870s.

Nash, the chief owner; Karen Miller, his pharmacist; and Karen Strickland, his floor manager, got off to a running start. Today, the pharmacy is in its third week of operation.

"The pharmacy was reopened because the people asked for it," Mayor Donald N. Lazar said, noting that senior citizens make up a good portion of the community's population.

The week of Oct. 13 was declared grand opening week, and Lazar cut the ribbon that officially reopened the venerable pharmacy.

"We had a good crowd," Lazar said. "It's refreshing to see small-town people try to hang on to something old and familiar. But, of course, it's a gamble. We hope it succeeds."

Customers who came saw a remodeled store. About all it lacks is the nearly forgotten soda fountain. But it had new lighting, shelving and home health-care items.

Customers also saw a counter that displayed greeting cards at half-price, Mrs. Strickland said. Deep-discount sales are a standard ploy in drawing customers.

The store pulled out another sure-fire winner -- hot dogs.

For the last five years, Cliff Schuler, a former West Seneca restaurant operator, has been selling hot dogs from his steam cart parked on a Main Street sidewalk.

"Since we reopened, Cliff has his steam cart in front of the Hollywood Theater near the pharmacy," Mrs. Strickland said. "Each day this week, we gave coupons for a Cliff Schuler hot dog to our first 30 customers. It's worked well. People have been coming. And Karen Miller, our pharmacist, has been filling many prescriptions. Pharmacies are different from other stores. They are personal and caring. Karen Miller supplies that touch."

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