People’s Pharmacy marks 35 years in business
When People’s Pharmacy opened on Victoria Street, exactly 35 years ago today, the freezer was so small staff had to go inside sideways to get something out.
“I remember we used to order 12 of this or 12 of that,” said co-founder Donna Pearman. “We had five staff members.”
In the 35 years since then, things have changed, just a little.
People’s now has 50 staff members, and has gone from 900 sq ft to 10,000, not including office space. They also have another 15,000 sq ft at a second outlet at King Edward VII Memorial opened in 2016.
“It doesn’t feel like 35 years,” said co-founder Aleathea Rabain, Ms Pearman’s cousin.
She and Ms Pearman rarely have time to celebrate the store’s anniversary on October 31; it’s just too busy at the store.
“Maybe we should have opened on November 1,” Ms Pearman joked.
Instead, the store will be celebrating on Sunday with a 35 per cent sale, with up to 60 per cent off certain items.
Ms Pearman and Ms Rabain started out back in the 1970s working as pharmacists at Hamilton Pharmacy on Parliament Street.
“I got to know many, many people and I felt that people were not being served the way they needed to be,” Ms Pearman said. “And when I say people I mean, young, old, black, white, what have you.”
And she said customer service back then, just wasn’t what it is today.
From the beginning, People’s made a strategic decision to open on Sundays. At the time most pharmacies in Bermuda were only open for one or two hours on a Sunday.
“We decided to open half a day from 10am to 2pm,” Ms Pearman said. “From the very first Sunday we opened the doors, we couldn’t close at 2pm. There were so many people coming here. They would go to the emergency and then People’s Pharmacy was open. That way we were able to introduce the business to people who would not otherwise have supported us.”
Four generations of Ms Pearman’s family have worked in the store. Her late father Norris Pearman worked alongside her, often making runs to wholesalers when they were out of something a customer needed. Ms Pearman’s daughter, Tamara Richardson, is now the vice-president of sales and operations, and two of her grandchildren work there, along with various other relatives.
“Family support was also a major contributing factor to our success,” Ms Pearman said. “My two sisters Venetta [Symonds] and Marva [Allen], and a brother-in-law Vandyke [Allen] were directors and worked part-time until we became established enough to hire sufficient people. Just as importantly, my mother Ilis, looked after grandchildren from all families so that we could all put ample time in the business.”
After opening, People’s became the place to go for black beauty products such as hair-care items and shampoos.
“We needed the products, so we were more in tune with what the community needed,” Ms Richardson said. “That is how we grew all areas of business. We used the products so we knew what was missing in the market.”
Ms Rabain has been manning People’s at King Edward VII since it opened two years ago.
“I enjoy it,” she said. “You meet a lot of people. It is hard work.”
But she plans to retire next month after 60 years in retail.
She said people just starting out in business needed to be vigilant and passionate about what they do.
Ms Richardson said online shopping was changing the nature of retail.
“Customers know what they want and expect to have it right away,” she said. “Considering we are on an island in the middle of the Atlantic, we don’t necessarily have the buying power of an Amazon. It has been a challenge inventory-wise, to keep up with demand, meet customers’ price expectations and be timely with it.”
But she said they try to get the best margins out of their vendors as they can to do the best for their customers.
Ms Pearman said they were proud and thankful for the staff they had.
For more information see www.peoples.bm</i>
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