When Chris Geronsin, RPh, started working at the Beverly Hills Pharmacy (St. Louis, MO) in 1977, he had no idea where it would lead. A decade later he was holding the keys to the pharmacy and had a new title?owner.

Geronsin admits that he was not too keen on owning the pharmacy when his then boss, Dominic Vitale, approached him. At the time, the pharmacy was filling only 38 prescriptions a day. Geronsin eventually agreed after Vitale asked him several times. ?He handed me the keys, we shook on it, and he told me to pay him when I could. I paid him off in 8 months. He gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, and his name is still on the door as proprietor.?

He took the opportunity and ran with it. The once small footprint of the pharmacy has expanded at least 5 times to 1800 sq ft, with the pharmacy occupying 1600 sq ft. Beverly Hills Pharmacy now fills on average 750 prescriptions a day, with 65% of the clientele using the pharmacy?s free delivery service. He said the pharmacy makes between 125 and 200 deliveries a day. ?I encourage deliveries because others [pharmacies] do not, and I want to be part of it.?

The Personal Touch

The pharmacy?s success has come through a series of small events. Early in owning the pharmacy, Geronsin helped a nun, who was a visiting nurse, search for home health care supplies. He had the supplies she needed and gave them to her gratis. The nun remembered Geronsin and referred one of her patients to the pharmacy. Geronsin said he saw that the home health care market could be profitable. It is now a considerable part of the pharmacy?s business. In the late 1990s, the pharmacy began serving patients needing HIV medications. The pharmacy handles 300 to 400 patients with HIV a month, and this is a large percentage of the pharmacy?s revenue.

Word of mouth led to the Beverly Hills Pharmacy serving the area?s professional sports teams?the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Rams. The pharmacy fills prescriptions and brings supplies to the team trainers, players, and owners. When the National Football League recognized the St. Louis Rams for the ?best prescription records in the National Football League,? the team sent the award to the pharmacy. It is displayed on the pharmacy counter as proof of the store?s commitment to service. Geronsin said he enjoys working with the professional teams, and the perks are not too bad either. ?Every kid wants to a get a chance to walk into the locker room, and it is still a thrill for me every time.?

As with many independents, Beverly Hills Pharmacy was impacted by the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit, getting paid a lot less for filling prescriptions, and reimbursement is taking longer. On the other hand, the drug benefit has had a positive effect on the pharmacy. ?Medicare Part D has been good to me because patients come to me as an expert,? he said. This patient population makes up 60% of the pharmacy business.

Technology Key to Success

Beverly Hills Pharmacy would not be able to handle its current prescription volume without technology. ?We could not complete all the scripts during the workday and either stayed late or delayed our deliveries to the following day. It was clear automation was our best course of action.?

The pharmacy invested in the Parata RDS Robotic Dispensing System 4 years ago. The robotic dispensing solution was designed to meet the needs of pharmacies by automating up to half of a pharmacy?s prescription volume, with a compact 12-sq-ft machine that holds 252 dispensing cells. The machine handles 51% of Beverly Hills Pharmacy?s scripts.

?It took the glass ceiling away and allowed me to grow my business to where I never thought. I have more time to counsel customers and plan for my business,? he said.

He attributes much of his success to his employees and thinking outside the box. ?Without the people I work with, I would not be here. I have one of the best staffs in the world. Everyone has a talent.?

As for competition, Geronsin does not seem too concerned. A major retail chain store sits across the street on Natural Bridge Road. ?I do not worry too much about the chains. A motivated independent will do very well against a chain.?