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What Milwaukee's independent pharmacies mean to generations of patients

Terry Paynes, left, has been a customer of Milwaukee Pharmacy since he was 8 years old.
Sara Stathas
Milwaukee Magazine
Terry Paynes, left, has been a customer of Milwaukee Pharmacy, also known as Carter Drug Store, since he was 8 years old.

Local pharmacies are cornerstones in the Milwaukee area. From Milwaukee Pharmacy to Swan Serv-U, these places have served generations of patients. They act as neighborhood hubs and can effectively meet patients where they are. They’ve also become increasingly important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this month’s Milwaukee Magazine, freelance writer Kenya Evans looks into independent pharmacies and what their future may be.

"I think that [these pharmacies] are definitely having a moment, as one of the pharmacists said and I think people are starting to realize the value of having a neighborhood pharmacy," Evans shares. "And as an owner, pharmacists are able to be a bit more agile and adapt to the needs of what's going on around them in their community."

Pharmacies like Swan Serv-U in Wauwatosa and North Shore Pharmacy, formerly known as Thompson's, in Shorewood have added many services — like COVID-19 vaccinations — to answer the call of the communities in which they reside, she explains.

For Evans, pharmacies like Milwaukee Pharmacy, also known as Carter Drug Store which was once owned by the late Dr. Lester Carter Jr., left a big impact on her and the Black community in Milwaukee. Lester's good standing in the community and his approach to patients seeking help made his pharmacy a trusted go-to.

Hayat Pharmacy is also innovating in the way it interacts with the community by partnering with clinics and by catering to immigrant populations. Pharmacists at Hayat are fluent in the languages spoken within the communities that they serve, bridging access to health care.

While local pharmacies are now thriving, Evans says it's up in the air as to what 10 years in the future will look like — especially when it comes to competing with big drugstore chains and dealing with insurance companies.

"With deep innovation and with different ways of looking at the problem and trying to address the needs of a community, they are definitely still relevant today," says Evans.

Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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