Cathy Forster has owned drug store since 1976
By Stewart Grant
After 72 years in operation, Jackson’s Pharmacy will have just its second ownership change. Effective November 1, Cathy Forster will sell her ownership of Jackson’s Pharmacy to Sunshine Drugs, a company owned by pharmacist Frank Murgic.
For Sunshine Drugs, Jackson’s Pharmacy will be the 14th drug store in their Family of Pharmacies. The acquisition fits their profile of small town drug stores that also includes locations in Windsor (Murgic’s hometown), Kingsville, Blenheim, Sauble Beach, Wiarton, and Lion’s Head.
Jackson’s Pharmacy was founded by brothers Hugh and Ab Jackson in 1947, at the corner of Water and Queen Street where Stonetown Coffee now resides. After graduating from the University of Toronto in 1974, Cathy Forster purchased the pharmacy on April 1, 1976. Cathy noted that her purchase of Jackson’s was 24 years to the day from when her parents bought the St. Marys Grill (where the Baseball Hall of Fame office was recently located) in 1952. Growing up working in a family business fueled an entrepreneurial spirit for Forster that led to her further expansion of Jackson’s Pharmacy and her development of the Stone Willow Inn in St. Marys.
“The first store was at the corner of Water and Queen and was just 900 square feet,” said Forster. “It didn’t include the extension that they have now. There were three picture windows and two doors; storage was in the basement, which you had to be careful because it flooded; and the washroom was upstairs outside the apartment.”
The business was moved to the St. Marys Grill building on Queen Street in 1978, upping the square footage to 1,500 square feet. Ten years later in 1988, Jackson’s Pharmacy moved to its present location on Wellington Street (formerly occupied by IGA Grocery Store), greatly expanding the business to 5,000 sq. ft. outfront, plus additional warehouse and office space and a spacious parking lot. The new location enabled Forster to increase Jackson’s cosmetic lines and giftware, greatly expand their Hallmark card offerings, and allocate greater space to the dispensary.
When asked about the changes that she had seen in the past 43+ years, Forster quickly pointed to computerization as having the largest impact of the various changes that she had seen over the years.
“When we started, we had no computers so everything was done by hand. I was around for the beginning of the government drug plan for seniors when we had to handwrite every single number for every single line on carbon paper and send it in and you couldn’t use ditto marks…if you made a mistake they’d reject it and send it back. It was not efficient at all.”
Technology also vastly improved the front shop, with scanning of UPC codes speeding up the checkout process. Another change for the pharmacy was the elimination of cigarettes. “We got rid of cigarettes when we moved over here (to the Wellington Street location in 1988). We got rid of them even before they were banned (for sale by pharmacies which was effective December 31, 1994). They used to be a big seller.”
Forster added, “Another big change was the role of the pharmacy in the health care system where we became more collaborative with other members of the health care team and they’ve expanded our scope of practice.”
Upon retirement, Cathy is looking forward to time at the cottage, spending more time with family, and focusing on her favourite hobbies such as skiing, golfing and archeology. At the same time, she admits that it will be hard to leave, although she couldn’t be happier to pass the business along to the new owner, Frank Murgic.
“The first time that I met him was amazing; he’s just so enthusiastic and we talked and talked and just seemed to mesh. There’s great potential for this business in addition to his other ones; the synergies are amazing; we have product that he’s never seen and he’s got product that we’ve never seen; there’s a win for everybody there and all the staff (of 18) is staying on. We have the best staff in town and they do such a fantastic job with customer relations.”
Speaking with Frank Murgic, “We’re so excited to be part of the St. Marys community and to work with the staff at Jackson’s. We have a great team and we all have the same mindset which is to serve our patients.”
Murgic graduated as a pharmacist in 1990 and worked for Shoppers Drug Market before venturing out on his own and opening his first small drug store in Windsor in October of 1992. Growing slowly but surely, Sunshine Drugs will now have 14 stores within its Family of Pharmacies, each adhering to the company’s five core values which are: 1. Do the right thing; 2. Show people you care; 3. Do the best you can; 4. Have a positive attitude; and 5. Be a team player.
“I can already see that these values are already here (at Jackson’s) but it is just reinforcing that culture,” said Murgic. “Congratulations to Cathy on what she has created here at Jackson’s, and I want to continue that legacy and embrace the community.”