“You can’t shut this place down,” the owner said, pointing at the soda shop counter.
After customers were told they could still get their prescriptions filled at the nearby CVS, they congratulated Woodard on the decision. He said they were just happy they could still come and eat.
“When you mention Sutton’s Drug Store, it always revolves around the food,” Woodard said.
CVS acquired Sutton’s pharmacy in a deal that was finalized Tuesday. CVS will fill all of Sutton’s existing prescriptions, and Woodard said he will also work in the pharmacy there.
Woodard said his decision was the result of recent changes in healthcare that are making it difficult for small drug stores to make money by filling prescriptions. He said trying to compete with big companies would be a death sentence.
“With health care changing like it is, everything going corporate, it’s just been so difficult to meet the requirements for the insurance companies,” he said.
Woodard said his decision came after 37 years as the pharmacist of Sutton’s, during which his business outlasted other corporate drug stores on Franklin Street, including Revco, a drug store company bought by CVS in 1997.
He said now it’s his turn to give in to the competition.
“We’ve withstood the big boys long enough, and now the circle’s come around,” he said.
Despite having to close down his pharmacy, he said he was happy CVS was so invested in making the process easier. He said they even agreed to deliver prescriptions in order to keep customers.
Although the transition was smooth, Woodard said it was hard for him to part with the pharmacy.
“It is probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” he said.
It wasn’t easy for other employees either. Don Pinney, manager at Sutton’s, said there was something comforting about working with Woodard every morning for 34 years.
“You ever had a security blanket?” he said.
Pinney said he knew Woodard would leave as soon as he started talking about it. The store will focus on selling more merchandise to make up for the loss of the pharmacy.
Genny Wrenn, manager at the Shrunken Head Boutique, has been coming to Sutton’s for breakfast and lunch every day for 45 years. Woodard even attended Wrenn’s wedding. She said she’ll miss seeing him in his white pharmacist’s coat and thinks people will have trouble getting used to his absence.
“It’s definitely gonna be a big change,” Wrenn said. “Chapel Hill’s not good for change.”
Woodard said in his decades at the pharmacy, he’s worked anywhere from 60 to 80 hours a week. Now he said he can golf more and help his wife with her real estate business.
“I’m looking forward to getting out and enjoying more free time,” he said.
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