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Monday, November 26, 2012

It’s been years since the days when lunch counters were a staple of community pharmacies, but with 66 years under its belt, the family-owned Lehan Drugs and Home Medical Equipment in Dekalb, Ill., is doing something right. In September, the Illinois Retail Merchants Association honored pharmacist/owners Tim and Ann Lehan as its 2012 Illinois Retailers of the Year. Tim Lehan spoke with HME News recently about the importance of evolving and the value of a $2 bill.

HME News: How did Lehan Drug get its start?

Tim Lehan: We started off with an itty-bitty storefront and then my grandfather and great uncle moved to a new building with the only lunch counter in town. They thought that would be a big draw to get people in, and it did—they’d get 2,000 people a day. I’d love to have that kind of traffic today.

HME: It’s tough to be a community pharmacy these days. What’s your secret?

Lehan: It’s a commitment to the family and the business and it’s the ability to change, have a vision where you want to go, and how you are going to get there. But, I think it takes some luck, too. You never know if you are going to make a right or wrong decision.

HME: Was adding HME six years ago a “right” decision?

Lehan: It really has been. Originally we dabbled in it. Then, I hired my brother. Now we have increased our sales tremendously. In that period, we’ve added RTs, a nurse and we have a five-person billing office. After my sister went to a women’s health conference, we started doing mastectomy and compression and that’s becoming a big part of the business.

HME: You recently came up with a novel way to support your community.

Lehan: Last Christmas season, we handed out 50 $2 bills to employees and made them sign an agreement to spend it at a locally owned business. For customer appreciation day this year, we thought we’d take it further. My mom and dad are giving out the $2 bills (to customers who agree to spend it locally). We started getting phone calls back from merchants that were receiving these. It is making people aware that money spent in a locally owned business stays in the community.