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Dean's Pharmacy turns 20

DeWitt Era-Enterprise of DeWitt, Arkansas

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In 1992, Dean Watts was a district pharmacy manager for Walmart in North Carolina when he decided, "If 1 wanted to work that much, I'd work for myself."

Meanwhile, back in DeWitt, Larry Barnes, owner of Hampton Drug, decided it was time to sell his business. Both Barnes and Watts got what they wanted, and 20 years later, Dean's Pharmacy is celebrating its anniversary.

Dean's Pharmacy in 1992 was a much different business than it is now. It was located on Court Square in part of the building that now houses Cox Realty, and was mostly a drug store, although it offered a few additional services such as UPS pickup and photo developing. But then Dean's Pharmacy began to expand.

In 1998, the pharmacy took over the other half of the Court Square building, which had been vacated by Cross Insurance Agency, and added more medical services. But Watts soon realized that was not enough.

"Traffic slowed down |at the Court Square location]," he said. "I had the opportunity to buy the lot out here [on Whitehead Drive, across from DeWitt Hospital | and capture the traffic patterns that were changing."

In June, 2000, the new Dean's Pharmacy opened in its current location. Watts said the advantages were evident immediately. "We're right across the street from the hospital and the doctors' offices, he said, "and we have plenty of parking.

" But Dean's was not finished ex-, panding. ln 2002, whenJackWhit-more opened ALPS, a discount food store in Stuttgart, a branch of Dean's Pharmacy moved in. (It moved to Mayflower when ALPS closed). In 2009, Watts acquired the third location in Marianna.

There was "no real master plan," Watts said to grow to three loca-.. tions, but it certainly helped when | he married another pharmacist, I Karen Snyder, in2002. In addition I to working as a pharmacist, Karen Watts has played a major role in I building Dean's gift business. I "The gift business has expanded four or five-fold," Watts said.

In 2010, Dean's made another major change when it bought DeWitt Economy Drug from Al-I ton and Kathryn Chambless. The move brought new customers and also new staff. "The Economy Drug crew is still I working here," Watts said. While Alton Chambless has. filled in at the pharmacy, Kathryn Chambless has been working with the new Medicare Part D drug programs to i help customers find the program they need. "This is something we j become very involved in every year," Watts explained. Trying to 1 get seniors matched up with the plans that will provide the most coverage for their prescription drugs "can be complicated."

The Medicare Part D plans are just one of the ways that the pharmacy business has changed dramatically since Dean's Pharmacy first opened its doors. Keeping up with the rapidly changing rules from the different payers can be "overwhelming," Watts said. One the positive side, treatment is available to more people, "but you have to jump through hoops to get it."

The pharmacy also gets requests on occasion for more traditional remedies. "We still get calls for fish fin liniment or cod liver oil," Watts said. He also had a "little old lady" who wanted an acifidity bag a herbal remedy used to ward off evil spirits. "It stinks to high heaven," Watts said. This lady wore it in a little bag around her neck, and one always knew when she came in the store.

In the past 20 years, Watts said, several customers have grown to be "very good friends. "There are a few things he misses about the old store on Court Square, mostly going next store to visit Charley Hamilton in his TV shop and listening to Hamilton's stories. But, "we couldn't have stayed in business," if the store had stayed on the Square. The No. I reason for Dean's Pharmacy's success, Watts said, is "We have been able to increase volume by increasing our locations."

Watts is originally from Helena, although his parents are from here (his mother is from the Boyd family), and "I spent many summers on the farm," in DeWitt. He said he is grateful for all the support he has received.

"I'm proud of what we've accomplished here," he said. "I couldn't have done it without my wile and all the other people's help we've received." .

Dean's Pharmacy will be running special events all next week to mark the anniversary. The company's will debut its website,, June 11.

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Original Publication Date: June 7, 2012

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