Last week our local pharmacy, Towne Pharmacy, here in Branford announced that they would be closing. The message sent a wave of sadness throughout our community. So many of us had gotten to know the proprietors and they, in turn, knew us. It was another example of how the passage of time, and the inevitable changes that it brings, ultimately alters the world we have come to know, and enjoy.
Some might think, it’s just another store, we can get your meds at so many other places. Or, it’s easier to order stuff online, no need to go anywhere to pick it up. As for the rest of the things they sell there - well, the supermarket probably stocks most of it anyways. The site, right on the Branford green, has been a pharmacy for as long as I have lived in town. Karen, the current owner, took over from her father Bill after he passed away. I always thought he would have been so proud to know that his labors were continuing and even expanding under his daughter’s care. The other interesting note about the place is that we always called it the pharmacy and not the drug store. Somehow, that reference suited it best.
So, what’s the big deal, anyways. All the meds are being transferred to one of the local drug chains, and there will be no disruption in our service. Everything else is replaceable; available in other places.
The deal is that this little business is another, perhaps one of the last, vestiges of our small town-ness. When you think of small-town America, there is a Norman Rockwell image that emerges in our mind’s eye. Main Street USA with the small mom and pop stores scattered along the way. Sure to be there is the pharmacy and perhaps, a barber shop, and perhaps, even a little hardware store. You see, Branford had all of these things not all that long ago, and it seemed like a pretty nice way to live.
The small businesses bring something intangible to a community; they bring a personal connection to the act of shopping. Rose and Bobby, in the Branford Book Shop, knew the name of just about every person who walked in, and if you played the lottery, she usually knew your favorite numbers as well.
How important is it, you may ask, to have this personal connection? The mere fact that someone is there to greet you, and perhaps even remember your name, has a huge impact on your perception of being connected to your community. Who doesn’t want to feel known by those with whom you do business? It elevates the shopping experience to another level of enjoyment and it motivates you to want to go back. I would sometimes spend an extra minute or two in the pharmacy to wander around and look for something else to purchase. Friendly faces, friendly demeanor, friendly service; it’s worth so much. It was worth enough for me and a lot of my friends to make it a point to go there regularly.
So, is this the end of our small town designation? Do we now become more like the other, larger towns around us, transitioning to a more efficient, less personal business model?
Is there no place left where you can feel comfortable in your familiar surroundings and with the folks who are there to serve you? I fear that is the case, I mourn the loss of my old Main Street, the place where people knew you and you knew them. It’s the march of time, and you can’t stop it, but you don’t have to like it.