- Associated Press - Saturday, April 29, 2017

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) - Meadowbrook Pharmacy, one of two independent pharmacies in Charlottesville, will close next month after 60 years in business.

William L. Lamar, co-owner and president of the drug store, broke the news to customers in a letter dated April 21 and received by most customers on Monday. He noted in the letter that the store’s lease is ending and that CVS Pharmacies plans to build a free-standing store in the Meadowbrook Shopping Center, directly in front of his store’s location.

“Part of the agreement with CVS was that the lease for this store could not be renewed,” Lamar said Tuesday night after closing up shop. “We’ve been aware of that for some time and have worked with our landlord and CVS. I had hoped to relocate, but that didn’t work out.”

Lamar said May 8 will be the last day for customers to receive prescriptions from Meadowbrook Pharmacy. Existing prescriptions and customer records will be transferred to the Barracks Road Shopping Center’s CVS Pharmacy at the close of the business day.

The last day Meadowbrook Pharmacy will be open will be May 11.

Customers who want to do business with a pharmacy other than CVS may have their preferred pharmacy call CVS to transfer scripts and records before or after the switch, Lamar said.

Much of Meadowbrook Pharmacy’s medical stock also will transfer to CVS, and non-pharmacy items will be distributed among four small pharmacies with which Lamar is involved. Those are in Greene, Madison and Orange counties and in Elkton.

“We have had absolutely the best support from this community, more support that anyone could possibly imagine,” Lamar said. “We were well received from Day One.”

Day One was July 1, 1983, when he took ownership of the store from Billy J. Bray.

“There are people who still come in here that have been coming here longer than I’ve owned the place,” Lamar said. “It’s difficult. It’s so hard to say goodbye.”

Commentators on social media and customers who hurried in and out of the pharmacy in Tuesday’s rain agreed, bemoaning the pharmacy’s demise. They noted the lengths that some employees went to take care of elderly and homebound customers, from free delivery to careful packaging of medications.

Jonathan Rice, of Charlottesville, said he will miss the pharmacy’s ancillary offerings and personal service.

“Among other things, they always had a great selection of kids’ books and toys, and the people who worked there were very helpful and attentive,” he said.

Rice also questioned why there are seven CVS stores in Charlottesville and Albemarle County and another CVS located inside the Target store on U.S. 29 near Forest Lakes.

In 2016, CVS was the biggest pharmacy chain in the country with 9,105 stores. Walgreens was second with 7,713, Rite Aid was third with 4,515 stores, Walmart was fourth with 4,403 stores and Kroger was the fifth largest with 1,911 outlets.

CVS was ranked as the top-selling pharmacy in 2016 with $61.1 billion in prescription sales, about 15 percent of all sales. Its mail prescription service sold another $35.3 billion to give CVS more than 23 percent of the market.

“How many CVS outlets do we need?” Rice asked. “CVS is like an invasive species in the retail world, taking spots that were long held by unique, locally owned businesses and giving these structures the same dreary, over-lit, shabby, homogenous look.”

The new CVS, which is working its way through the city of Charlottesville’s zoning approval process, will be built on the corner of Emmet Street and Barracks Road. Under the site plan, buildings currently housing ALC Copies, the former Tavern Restaurant and the former Anderson’s Seafood Market will be knocked down to make room for the CVS. The existing CVS in Barracks Road Shopping Center will then be closed, officials have said.

There are no plans to demolish the row of shops at Meadowbrook Shopping Center that include Meadowbrook Pharmacy, according to land owner Clara Belle Wheeler.

“There has never been any intention to do that and there will never be any intention to do that,” Wheeler said. “The people who own those businesses are good people, they have good businesses and they have leases, and that’s how it will remain.”

The CVS approval has been delayed by city officials over concerns about the building’s windows, facade, lighting and signs. The new store will be part of a new retail center on the corner that will be called Barracks Row.

Wheeler said she told CVS officials to keep Lamar informed of the progress and to work with the businessman.

“I was not a part of any negotiations, but I wanted to make sure that they would work with Mr. Lamar,” Wheeler said. “I told them that, if they didn’t, the deal would be off.”

With Meadowbrook Pharmacy’s demise, Timberlake’s Drug Store, a downtown Charlottesville fixture since 1890, is the last remaining independent pharmacy in the urban area.

There are independent pharmacies located in other parts of Central Virginia, such as Parkway Pharmacy in Crozet, Jefferson Pharmacy in Fluvanna County and Stoney Creek Pharmacy in Nellysford.

Other independent pharmacies are located in Scottsville, Fork Union, Greene County, Orange County and Madison County.

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