“This building has quite a history. It was the first pharmacy in Howick and it’s been here for about 100 years! There have obviously been a few owners, but I’ve been here since 2004.
I grew up in Taranaki, did my studying in Wellington and then came to Auckland to do my one year pharmaceutical internship. After that I never left! I’d been looking to buy a business for a while and wanted to find something where I didn’t have to move my family. Howick was an area that I knew, and I really liked the community aspect of the place, which reminded me of the small town where I grew up. People know each other and it tends to be generational; there’s a kind of comfort in that.
Running the business when my family was young was a juggle. I was very fortunate in that my husband was able to stay at home and work part time. We didn’t have any close family nearby so we needed to be self-reliant or pay for childcare. It was a decision we made as a family and we kept that going until the kids were around high school age. My husband was involved in the business though, not not in a 9–5 way. He worked as the delivery man for a while and did lots of back room stuff.
We have very close relationships with some of our customers – we know their history and the regular medicines they’re on. Often people will come to us before going to the doctor; it’s often something we can resolve if it’s relatively minor – or at least we’re able to confirm that they do need to go to see their doctor. It can be a triage sort of role.
We also do a lot of Primary Health work like vaccinations, B12, oral contraceptives, blood pressure checks and short courses of antibiotics for UTIs for example. That side of the job has evolved a lot over my career and wasn’t really a thing when I started in Pharmacy. It makes it more interesting though.
In addition to the pharmaceutical, we also stock gifts and skin-care – and we try to support New Zealand made. People are often very conscious of that and often ask for it when they come in.
Our working conditions last year during lockdowns were very stressful. We had always had a pandemic plan in place, but it was theoretical, and when it came to it we were definitely learning on the job. We went from paper-based prescriptions to electronic literally overnight. It had been a thing talked about in our world for 10 years, but had never quite happened. So a whole lot of teething problems came with that because it was implemented so quickly. We also had our own toilet paper problems… the phone didn’t stop and we couldn’t keep up! Eventually people realised we weren’t going anywhere and it did calm down.
I’ve always said to my kids that ‘attitude is everything’. This is important for me and for my staff. We are very involved in supporting things locally; with galas and fundraiser, schools, the bridge club and bowls club. From time to time we get asked to speak at local groups, like the Macleans College careers evening. If it’s local, we will try and do it.”