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Dallas' Dougherty's Celebrates 80 Years

By Bill Zeeble, KERA News

Dallas, TX –

Dallas's oldest stand-alone pharmacy is celebrating its 80th birthday this year. Against all odds, Dougherty's has not only survived the encroaching national drug-store chains, but thrived. What's the secret? Some say "compounding," KERA's Bill Zeeble explains.

Bill Zeeble: It's a typical morning in Dougherty's, near the busy Dallas corner of Preston and Royal, where this drug store now stands. Born in the Great Depression of 1929 in Oak Cliff, it moved here, where it's living through the current recession.

CEO David Bowe: We've grown to become the largest retail pharmacy in the state of Texas and one of the largest in the country.

David Bowe, Dougherty's CEO, bought the business 5 years ago after being impressed as a customer. The location is surrounded by competitors, from ubiquitous grocery store pharmacies to major drug chains. Bowe says Dougherty's, which turns nearly 30 million dollars a year in business, works hard to outdo them.

Bowe: When people come here, they frequently do the "Oh wow" factor, "I never knew you had " As you can see we have a wide variety of products not normally found in most pharmacies and in fact competitors refer customers here.

This pharmacy boasts aisles of orthopedic braces, shoe arches, walls full of high-tension support stockings next to wheel chairs, canes, and more. But step in back to discover what really sets Dougherty's apart. This is where the store's pharmacists and technicians turn out what Bowe says are 2 to 3 times the number of prescriptions than the average chain store. What's more, Dougherty's dominates the Southwest in filling specialty prescriptions handmade here.

Park: We're making capsules. This vibrator gets the powder down into there and makes it an even distribution of powder into the capsules.

Joe Park is Dougherty's long-time Chief Pharmacist and part owner. This machine is mixing pulverized chemicals into capsules for an FDA drug study. This is compounding - blending chemical powders, ointments and liquids into lollipops, capsules and bottled concoctions unavailable in mainstream chains. When Tamiflu was hard to find recently, Park compounded child doses here, in an easily taken & tasty liquid. Some clients include veterinarians.

Park: When I made a commitment to compounding I thought that's where my future in pharmacy would be. If they can't find what they want and you supply it to them then you got a unique situation because your competition is not supplying that product. Just listen to what they need and get it for them. And source it, and you'll be alright.

His most memorable item?

Park: My first big compounding success was growing hair with a drug called menoxidyl. It's a side affect for a blood pressure medicine. Upjohn owned the product, and before they brought Rogaine on the market I was compounding it. It was very good for me for a year and half or 2 years. Then Rogaine came out and it went away.

David Bowe remembers a customer call a few years back, on December 23rd.

David Bowe Their daughter was at Baylor Medical Center and would not be home for Christmas unless she could get a compounded prescription. Baylor couldn't do it. There was no other place could do it. Could Dougherty's compound that prescription? Ok? She was home for Christmas.

Customers offer their own stories. Paula Menendez grew up here. And this was her neighborhood pharmacy. Now she has two small children and there are many drug store choices. A little while back, she went to one, thinking she could save some money.

Paula Menendez: The liquid that my daughter takes has to be dispensed in its original dark glass bottle, or else it will degrade before the expiration date. And they weren't able to give it to me in the original bottle, and couldn't even get a good reason why they wouldn't do it.

So Menendez is back. Bowe says Dougherty's is simply different from big drug store competitors. He says they do what they do well. That leaves Dougherty's to do what it does.

Email Bill Zeeble