EAST HADDAM — Nutmeg Pharmacy plans to hold a grand opening of its new Moodus village location on February 10 at 9 a.m., the pharmacy’s co-owner said in a Thursday interview.
This comes a little more than three months after the Nathan Hale Pharmacy closed in late October, leaving East Haddam without a pharmacy, as independent pharmacies are closing in many parts of the state.
The 2,000 square-foot store at 38 William F. Palmer Road will have “all the basic necessities,” said co-owner Greg McKenna, offering prescription medications with specialized packaging, free delivery, immunizations, shampoos, cards, small gifts, first-aid supplies, and over-the-counter drugs for cough, cold, and headaches.
In the months since Nathan Hale closed, Nutmeg Pharmacy has already been delivering prescriptions to residents.
“I originally got into this from [East Haddam Senior Center Director] Brad Parker,” McKenna said, “He said that there were 45 residents that CVS wouldn’t deliver to, and he asked if we would take these residents. And I said yes.”
But after an overwhelming response from residents seeking pharmacy services and far more deliveries than originally expected, McKenna said, “it became blatantly obvious to me that we would have to do a lot more.”
McKenna announced plans for the Moodus pharmacy — the fourth location of Nutmeg Pharmacy — at a meeting on the same night that Nathan Hale Pharmacy filled its final prescriptions. He received applause from an audience of over 80 people at the local middle school.
Robert Casner, chair of East Haddam’s Economic Development Commission, praised McKenna for “professionalism” and being “community-minded.” Casner said that it was critical for a town with an aging population to have attentive pharmacy services
“When they closed the existing pharmacy, it was definitely a major void for us to have not have a pharmacy in the town,” Casner said in a phone interview. “I think that it’s absolutely critical that we have one. And that it’s even nicer when it’s basically a locally owned and independent pharmacy, which seems to be what we’ve always had here.”
Owner emphasizes customer service
Nutmeg Pharmacy has three other locations: one in the village of Higganum within the Town of Haddam, one in the Village of Taftville within Norwich, and one in the Hamlet of Centerbrook, part of Essex.
McKenna said that the pharmacy emphasizes a higher level of care by helping patients with medication management to plan out when they should take specific prescriptions.
“Most people on Medicare, people 65 or older, they’re on an average of 10 medications a day,” McKenna said. “Different drugs that might be good for one time might not be good for another, and this is where you need a pharmacist to sit there and take the extra time.”
He continued, “We’re focused on medication synchronization, making sure that people are taking their medications at the right time and making sure that the medications that they are taking at the right time are not interacting with other medications that they might be taking. You may need to separate some meds a few hours apart to be effective.”
Nutmeg Pharmacy’s locations have all been in rural communities. McKenna said that, ironically, when his pharmacy is farther from their “patients,” it becomes more central to their lives, and the reduced competition from other pharmacies in these areas helps to allow his pharmacists to devote more time to each individual patient.
“I definitely have found throughout the decades that I’ve been doing this, when I’m more than 10 miles away from anybody I’m a more active player with their lives. Because choices go down, but it makes more sense in time and money going to get it. We become more central.”
At their location in Taftville, which opened in early 2019, McKenna said that even though some patients had to spend over an hour by bus to get there, “it was the fastest growing location we’ve ever had.”
For Moodus, McKenna had in October floated the idea of Nutmeg Pharmacy eventually expanding into a full-service supermarket, filling another void left in town by the departure of the Grist Mill Market in 2019. But he said on Thursday that more market research has made it look like that scale of an expansion won’t be feasible.
Partly, he said, this is because many of the Grist Mill’s shoppers have already become accustomed to going to the grocery stores in Colchester, Deep River, and East Hampton. It would also be difficult to provide enough water for a deli, meat, and fish sections in a town without public water and sewers.
But he said that the pharmacy is still planning to expand into a larger location with a few more grocery options in the years to come.
“The people in Moodus have been just absolutely wonderful people,” McKenna said. “When you hear, Thank you, from somebody it’s just, ‘Oh wow.’ That sets you on fire. It’s awesome. And I can’t pay anybody for that.”