All in the family: Pharmacy celebrates 50 years of operation

Roland Reagan sits in a small conference room just off the side of the prescription counter in Reagan Home Care Pharmacy and reflects on the five decades his pharmacy has been in business. He is now retired, having sold the business to his sons, but he still comes in every day for the free coffee.

"It doesn't seem so long in a way, but I still miss it," said Roland, a little misty-eyed.

In July 1941, at the age of 13, Roland took a job working behind the soda fountain in the Walker-Warren pharmacy at the corner of Commercial and Center streets in Olde Town Conyers.

"That started it," Roland said.

He went on to earn a degree in pharmacy from Mercer University and, after honing his skill for a few years at Beasley's Pharmacy, also located in Olde Town, he went into business for himself, opening a prescription shop near the Rockdale hospital in 1959.

Roland said it wasn't unusual for him to get up two or three times a night to fill prescriptions for people, and he didn't mind at all.

"When I first went to pharmacy school I told myself people don't plan on getting sick," Roland said. "I think if you're in the health profession, you need to make yourself available."

Over the years, his business grew, changing locations several times. Roland's family also expanded. He and his late wife, Joyce, had three sons, two of whom, Jeff and Mike, showed an interest in the pharmacy field.

Jeff developed an aptitude for dealing with home medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, walkers and oxygen supplies. Roland made Jeff, a high school student at the time, a buyer of equipment, and sales people were often surprised that they were doing business with a teenager.

"He was into it," Roland said.

In 1984, having both earned college degrees in pharmacy, the two brothers purchased the business from their father and implemented a computerized prescription process, the first pharmacy in Conyers to do so, according to the Reagans.

Today, Jeff is the sole owner of Reagan Home Care Pharmacy, located at 1600 Milstead Road in Conyers, just one block from Rockdale Medical Center. With a fleet of 10 cars and 45 employees, the business not only fills prescriptions but provides medical equipment to individuals and hospices across Georgia. The equipment, such as hospital beds, wheelchairs, scooters, walkers and lift chairs, is for sale at the pharmacy. Reagan's also offers repair of the equipment

The pharmacy also has a compound lab where Jeff is able to prepare special prescriptions that might call for mixing of drugs or for drugs to be made into different forms, such as topical.

Though he didn't spend a lot of time at the pharmacy during his early childhood, Jeff remembers his father coming home from delivering a prescription on a Sunday afternoon only to have to turn around again and go back out to serve another customer.

"My father taught me that the license didn't have 9 to 5 on it," said Jeff, who estimates he's come back to work 2,000 times after hours during his 25 years as a pharmacist.

Jeff said his father never pressured any of his sons to go into the business.

"He never directly encouraged us. He told us to work here if we desired to," Jeff said. "Once we were there, we had to work as hard as we could, probably harder than the other employees."

Both father and son profess a deep appreciation for the medical profession, primarily because it involves building relationships with people. Jeff still serves some of the customers that his father worked with but also provides prescriptions for their children and grandchildren.

"We have an opportunity to interact with patients on a regular basis, more than physicians do," he said.

Added Roland, "I thoroughly enjoy it. I like the contact with the people, the person-to-person contact. I'd run stuff by their homes, I even knew their dogs' names."

When asked how they manage to compete with other larger pharmacy chains, the Reagans said that they rely primarily on strong customer service. Instead of just giving a diabetic a meter to test his blood sugar level, for example, Reagan employees will show him or her how to use it. For those who take multiple medications throughout the day, Reagan's offers a special packaging system that organizes the drugs according to the time they must be taken.

"Service is our most important product," Roland said. "That's our motto. I think that's the one thing that's made the business live."

And good service often results in repeat business.

"We've been blessed with loyal customers," Jeff said.

Contact Karen J. Rohr at karen.rohr@rockdalecitizen.com.