Thrifty White Pharmacy, including its gift store, closed its doors in downtown Princeton at the end of its business day on Tuesday after a nearly six-year stay here.
Its pharmacy has merged with Coborn’s pharmacy, its customers’ prescriptions transferred to Coborn’s effective Wednesday, Aug. 28.
Thrifty White’s leaving adds to the downtown vacancies the local chamber of commerce and economic development authority have been working so hard within the past nearly two years to fill.
The closest Thrifty White Pharmacy is now in downtown Milaca, which also has a Fairview Pharmacy.
The Thrifty White in Princeton took over the spot where Frank Pharmacy had been and, before that, Hobert Drug. The location is adjacent to the large space that sits empty where the Ben Franklin had operated for many decades until it closed about a dozen years ago. Crystal Cabinet Works factory owner Jeff Hammer has purchased the former Ben Franklin space but has still not remodelled it for the plans he announced at least a year ago. Those plans are to have it be a cabinet dealer training room and retail display room for the company’s cabinets.
The reason for the closing of the Thrifty White here, according to Dave Rueter, the company’s vice president of personnel, is that the number of pharmacies in Princeton was just too large. Rueter likened Princeton’s pharmacy offerings to a pie. Each pharmacy has a slice of the pharmacy revenue, and in a small town like Princeton the slice had gotten smaller, Rueter explained.
Rueter said the profit margin in prescription drugs is not that much to begin with, especially for some generics that are $4 per order.
Rueter referred to a couple pharmacy “expansions” in Princeton during Thrifty White’s time in the downtown, naming Coborn’s and Walmart.
Coborn’s actually had a pharmacy in Princeton before Thrifty White arrived here, when Coborn’s occupied the building that the Family Pathways thrift store is now in. Coborn’s later opened its current superstore in May 2007 and its pharmacy may have had more business in the new store.
Walmart opened its Princeton store in February this year, complete with a pharmacy.
Thrifty White recently notified its pharmacy customers by letter that, with their first new prescription at Coborn’s, they would receive $10 worth of free groceries at Coborn’s.
Princeton’s remaining pharmacies are at Fairview Northland Medical Center, Shopko, Walmart and Coborn’s.
Thrifty White is not a corporation, but instead a company that is 100 percent employee-owned, Rueter noted. The company is based in Plymouth and still has 90 stores, with most of them located in Minnesota and North Dakota, and some in Montana and South Dakota, according to Rueter.
“We add four to six stores per year and sometimes we close a store, but not very often,” Rueter said. He explained that Thrifty White does financial reviews of its stores and when it sees that one isn’t doing well, it will close it.
The Thrifty White that was in Princeton had 12 employees, a mixture of part time and full time. Rueter said that a few have transferred to Coborn’s to work at its pharmacy and that jobs are available at some other Thrifty White Pharmacies.
Carie Fuhrman, community development director for the city of Princeton, said the store’s closing is sad.
“It’s really sad. Sad not only for the downtown, but for the entire community.” She referred to the Thrifty White as having been a “pillar” and an “anchor” in the downtown.
Its’s also not good for employees who lost jobs there, Fuhrman added. The next question for Princeton is how to move forward, Fuhrman said.
Senior citizen Margie Heggerty was among those grieving the loss of a pharmacy this week in the spot that Thrifty White vacated.
Heggerty also called the loss of the Thrifty White “sad.” She said she has been going into the pharmacies in that spot since she was in grade school.
“It felt so personable,” she said of the pharmacy service there over the years. Like many others in Princeton, she hadn’t been aware of the Thrifty White plans to close for more than a few days.
Blaine Peterson, of rural Princeton, as he sat in his pickup truck, he could see the closing of Thrifty White coming with the arrival of Walmart. He said he worries about the local hardware stores.
He added that he can see why some shoppers, such as young couples who are struggling with finances, would be attracted to big box discount stores. Just the same, there is a downside to having a store like Walmart come into a smaller community, Peterson said.