Parker Drug, Franklin icon since 1887, to close July 27

Published 9:54 am Friday, July 16, 2010

FRANKLIN—More than six months after closing its pharmacy, Parker Drug, an icon in downtown Franklin since 1887, will be shutting down its gift shop and soda fountain on July 27.

On Thursday, the lunchtime crowd of regulars swapped stories of their favorite place to grab a quick bite and stopped to embrace the few employees left working the grill and register.

“I’m not sad for me, I’m sad for them,” Sara Bales said of the customers she was waiting on. “We have a lot of people that have been coming here for lunch for some time. They’re set in their ways.”

Behind the counter, Sue Walton was busy frying up a basket of French fries.

“What I’m going to miss the most are the customers,” Walton said, adding that some took her and other current and former employees to dinner the night before. “They went above and beyond. They were family. They asked about our families. It’s been a blessing.”

Parker Drug, at 102 N. Main St., is co-owned by Ed and Glenna Canada.

In December, Farm Fresh purchased the prescription files of Parker Drug’s active customers — estimated to be between 2,000 and 3,000 people — for an undisclosed sum. The grocery chain also hired Ed Canada as a pharmacist.

At the time of the acquisition, Canada said he planned to keep the gift shop and soda fountain inside the downtown store open for at least three months.

“I gave it six,” Canada said Thursday. “It’s just not strong enough to keep it open.”

Canada said the soda fountain makes enough money to pay the store’s five employees. But he said expenses — which include taxes, utility bills and an extra $250 monthly bill from the city to cover being undercharged in the past for electricity — coupled with slow business, made him decide to close the store.

“It’s always been a community place to gather, but that doesn’t pay the bills,” Canada said. “The cost of doing everything now is just ridiculous. It just doesn’t make sense to keep it open now.”

Asked what he planned to do with the building, Canada said, “I’ve talked to some people about maybe renting it out or maybe even buying it. But nobody seems all that hyped up about it yet. I guess we’ll just put it up for sale, unless I find a renter.”

Part of the Canadas’ agreement with Farm Fresh stipulates that there cannot be a competing pharmacy in the downtown building for the next five years. The Canadas bought the business in 1990. In December, Canada said he had contemplated selling the business for the last two years.

Canada said his wife, Glenna, broke the news to employees on Wednesday.

“She told them, and they all said they kind of figured it was coming just because of the way things have been,” Canada said.

Walton agreed, adding that May and June were slow months, especially with the closing of the International Paper Co. paper mill.

“It’s really nobody’s fault,” she said. “People just don’t come downtown anymore. We used to have 3,000 people come in here within a month’s time. A small place like this doesn’t have a chance anymore.”

One person who made the trip downtown was Shonda McClenny. While waiting at the counter for her lunch, she said she would probably start making lunch at home more often.

“It’s sad,” McClenny said. “We all say we want to cut back, but coming in here has always been a pleasure.”