By C. Julia Nelson

Ever heard of home medicine delivery that didn’t require an Internet connection?

For 36 years, pharmacist Richard ‘Doc’ Smith, R. Ph. has been delivering medications to the doors of customers who couldn’t make it to the pharmacy. The medications are delivered the same day they are ordered and for only a dollar over the cost of the medicine.

Operating two businesses, “where the customer comes first,” Doc Smith is confident that the independent Sandy Springs Pharmacy and E-Z Med, a closed pharmacy servicing assisted living homes relative to medication packaging, has an edge over the ‘big boys’ in the pharmaceutical industry.

The independent pharmacy was formed by Doc Smith, now age 63, in 1971 as a compliment to the former Sandy Springs Medical Center, now known as the Benson Center. In 1974, he partnered with the late Orrin Skolnick and together the two men created a niche that continues to maintain its loyal clientele despite the convenience of drive-thru pharmacies where photos can be developed or groceries bought.

Doc Smith and Skolnick later relocated the pharmacy to Vernon Woods Drive at Roswell Road and in 1990, moved the pharmacy to its current location at 6329 Roswell Road. (E-Z Med is located at 199 Hildebrand Dr. NE. and opened in 1985.)

This past February, Sandy Springs Pharmacy became the last independently owned pharmaceutical outlet in the area after Wender & Roberts Pharmacy closed its Sandy Springs location.

Having just celebrated its 36th anniversary on June 6, the Sandy Springs Pharmacy boasts much more than just inexpensive, same day delivery.

“People get a little more for their money here,” Doc Smith said about how his independent ‘niche’ pharmacy keeps up with big box pharmacies such as Eckerd or CVS.

Socialized health services such as Medicare and Universal Health Coverage have proved beneficial to the Sandy Springs Pharmacy staying afloat as a minority in the pharmaceutical industry. “No matter where you go you’re gonna pay the same co-payment or deductible,” Doc Smith said.

Beyond selling over-the-counter medications and offering a convenient delivery option, Sandy Springs Pharmacy provides free one-on-one counseling, free blood pressure checks, in-store financing options and a vast arrangement of wellness products. Specialty items range from support hosiery, neurological supplies, coloscopy supplies, lotions and vitamins, to wheel chairs, catheters and walkers.

Patrons needing braces or hosiery may meet with certified technicians trained to fit them for the items they require. A private fitting room is available on site.

Additionally, compounding services available at the Sandy Springs Pharmacy have proven useful to OB/GYNs, dermatologists and veterinarians.

Jack Adams, a long-time resident of Sandy Springs who has been a loyal patron of the independent pharmacy from its infancy, appreciates the wide selection of medical supplies available at the pharmacy.

“They have a tremendous inventory of medications and I also bought walkers there. They have the stuff you need when you get old,” Adams said.

Over and above all, Doc Smith and his staff of four pride themselves on personable, friendly and professional service.

“Customer service comes first,” Doc Smith said. “When people come here they want a professional person to talk to them in a professional way. We don’t have any gimmicks here except a warm atmosphere.”

At the recent Georgia Pharmacy Association convention in June, Smith was awarded the Wyeth Bowl of Hygeia award. This award is for a pharmacist who has shown community leadership and dedication to the profession of pharmacy. It is given by a panel of peers to only one pharmacist in every state.

Smith has served as president and in other officer positions for the Georgia Pharmacy Association. And, he currently hosts a health hour on Fridays on Radio Sandy Springs.

Rather than allowing one person to fill prescriptions, Sandy Springs Pharmacy has a check and balance system that ensures the integrity and accuracy of the medications being distributed as well as the customer’s satisfaction.

“We talk to the patient first and make sure everything’s ok and make sure the prescription’s right,” Doc Smith said about the service each patron should expect.

“A pharmacy is for a person’s whole health,” he added. “It’s about educating a customer about taking precautions with what they do or what medications they’re taking. Here you talk to a pharmacist, not a clerk. Plus we’re not as busy here, so we can take the time to talk to our customers.”

Luanne Fulk, a technician at the pharmacy, speaks with pride about the customer service they offer. “We have the same repeat customers; they’re used to us and they know they could ask us anything and we’ll help them out,” she said. “If there’s something we can’t get, we’ll try to find it somewhere for them.” Regular customers of the Sandy Springs Pharmacy know that the quality, professional and friendly service they receive is a great benefit of its independent status.

Adams benefits from the delivery services three to four times per month and wouldn’t trade the personal service for anything.

“First of all they are very, very nice people,” Adams said of his loyalty to the pharmacy. “Second, they deliver. It’s more convenient for me to have them bring it than for me to go over there. And third, I get a statement once a month because I charge there and they give me a print out every year for income tax purposes.”

Bob Parham shares similar sentiments. “It’s convenient; the personnel are incredible,” Parham said. “The customers love (the delivery service). Many of the customers are probably customers because they offer that service.”

“Delivery is not just for older clientele (who can’t drive),” Fulk said. “We (deliver to) parents with younger kids who can’t get here before six o’clock.”

“Considering the cost of gas, our delivery service is really reasonable,” technician Brandon Bevis added.

At the end of the day, thought, the main focus for Doc Smith is still and always has been the customer.

“We will make time for you with real concern and compassion for the health and welfare of our patients.” Doc Smith said. “We’re here to help; that’s what a pharmacy does.”

It is sort of like the customers are part of the family. But Doc Smith has a substantial family of his own. He and his wife Sandy, 61, live in Marietta. They also have two daughters, Jaffe, 32, and Marlysa, 30, and Jaffee has given them a grandson, Sammy, who is 22 months old.

Sandy Springs Pharmacy is located at 6329 Roswell Road in the Marshall’s shopping center. For more information, call 404-252-8165.