Linds to close in Langley

Linds Langley Drug, the city’s only pharmacy for the past

39 years, will close next month, owner Ron Lind said.

The store’s last day of operation will be Friday, March 13. A moving sale will begin March 2, and the building will be available for sale or lease on March 14, Lind said.

Pharmacy operations will be consolidated in a newly-expanded Freeland store, and 12 to 16 full- and part-time jobs will be eliminated company-wide, he said.

Another six to eight employees will have their hours reduced.

The Langley store has eight to 10 employees, depending on the day. Some will transfer to Freeland, Lind said.

Lind said he has received several calls about the Langley building, which has been remodeled “three or four times,” but none involve the prospect of a new pharmacy.

The moves are being made in response to the souring economy and changes in the health-insurance industry in regard to prescription drugs, Lind said.

“We’re sad to leave Langley,” he said. “We may be back when times get better.”

“We’re disappointed,” Langley Mayor Paul Samuelson said Monday from California, where he was visiting his grandchildren.

“The city has had a pharmacy for a long time,” Samuelson said. “We tried to encourage him to stay. It’s an important piece. We’re going to move forward and figure out what’s next.”

Lind said that because of the economy and the weather, the Langley store experienced its worst December business ever.

“The pharmacy was down a bit, but not nearly as much as the rest of the store,” he said. Besides the pharmacy, Linds Langley Drug carries a wide variety of merchandise and gifts on two floors.

Lind said insurance companies have continually lowered prescription fees paid to pharmacies, and, with large drug inventories, have pushed customers to use their mail-order houses.

He said recent industry statistics show the nationwide market share of independent pharmacies has decreased from 27 percent in 1997 to

18 percent in 2007, while mail-away business increased from 13 percent to 20 percent in the same period.

He predicted that the day isn’t too far off when pharmacists will become primarily consultants.

Meanwhile, South Whidbey’s slow population growth, and the worsening economy that he expects to last “for several years” sealed the Langley decision, Lind said.

“We’ve been seeing a downward trend in pharmacy business in Langley for the past several years,” he said. “Consolidation of our South End operation just makes sense.”

Lind owns three pharmacies, in Langley, Freeland and Coupeville. The Coupeville outlet, directly across from Whidbey General Hospital, has done the best, he said.

Lind said the Freeland store was opened about

14 years ago, and the Coupeville store was acquired about four years ago.

Closure of the Langley store will mean the nearest pharmacies to Langley residents will be at Ken’s Korner shopping center in Clinton and Linds Pharmacy in Freeland.

Late last year, Lind announced a 4,000-square-foot expansion of the Freeland store in the PayLess Shopping Center, expected to be completed next month.

It will accommodate an enlarged inventory of gifts, home-decor items and jewelry, with added office space and a larger prescription area, Lind said.

He said the company will take advantage of technology and automation, including the use of a drug-sorting robot, to streamline its pharmacy operations to handle higher volumes.

“In order to pay for the robot, you need volume to make sense out of the operation,” he said.

Meanwhile, the company will continue to develop a program started recently to provide a 90-day supply of a wide range of generic drugs for $9.95 per prescription, Lind said.

And Langley customers won’t be forgotten, he added. The company will provide free prescription delivery, by mail or van, Monday through Friday to homebound city residents.

Samuelson said the city will continue to work with Whidbey General Hospital to provide more healthcare options for Langley residents.

When Dr. Stan Whittemore closed the clinic last October, Whidbey General purchased the clinic’s patients’ records and equipment, and has been working with city officials to keep the clinic open.

Nurse practitioner Ann Lower is seeing patients Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Samuelson said another nurse practitioner will join her at the clinic this month.

Meanwhile, city and hospital officials continue to search for another physician to take over the practice, Samuelson said.

Linds Langley Drug was opened in 1970 on First Street, where Village Pizzeria is now. It later was moved to its current location across the street. Lind and his wife, Pam, lived above the store for 20 years.

Their two children, Adam and Onica, grew up in Langley. Adam Lind works in the business, as does his wife, Shannon. Two of Ron Lind’s eight grandchildren also work in the firm.

“We love Langley,” Adam Lind, who is general manager of the company, said Monday. “I basically grew up here. This was the saddest and hardest business decision we’ve ever had to make.”

He lives in Langley and has no plans to move, he said.

Ron Lind said he and his wife resided through the years in downtown Langley or in the immediate area until moving to Holmes Harbor two years ago.

While in Langley, both were immersed in the community. Lind was on the planning commission and was chair of the planning advisory board. He headed committees that helped create two comprehensive plans.

He was a founding president of the Langley Chamber of Commerce and a member of the board for 25 years, and was also a fire department volunteer.

Pam Lind was deeply involved with community theater in Langley through the years, he said.

“We love Langley,” Lind said. “If the economy turns around, we may be lucky enough to return and end our business days there.”

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