ALTON — B&D Pharmacy is one of the last “old school” pharmacies in Greater Alton, and owner Ken Duchnowski is letting everyone know he has no plans to stop.
B&D Pharmacy, 1 Professional Drive, has been in business the past 15 years and continues to satisfy customers.
“We just keep at it, and we survive,” Duchnowski said. “A lot of the other stores are either sold out to the big guys, or even retired. Right now, I’m the only one in Alton and Godfrey area that’s still independent.”
Because of drastic changes in the pharmacy field, it’s a fight for B&D to survive.
“Between mail orders and what we can PDM (pharmacy benefit manager), contracts need to be signed, and it’s something you can’t negotiate. It’s stuff you don’t have any control of. Back then, there were set prices, and you hoped they were better than the guy down the street,” he said. “You have to watch inventory and work harder because you can’t hire many people. It makes it a lot harder. “
Growing up, Duchnowski knew he didn’t want to work for a big retail company.
“I always worked retail when I was younger. In high school I worked for a grocery store; then to make my way through school I was also a roofer,” Duchnowski said.
“I wanted to control my own destiny,” he said.
It was not until he visited a friend that he realized his purpose in life.
“A friend of mine’s dad owned a pharmacy in downtown East St. Louis. It was a mom-and-pop type place. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I wanted to do,” he said. “I started hanging around the pharmacy, and from there, I got more interested in pharmaceuticals.”
B&D came to be in 1999 after he and a friend, Jerry Bailey, decided to open the location. As a young college student at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, Duchnowski said he first started working for John Fisher of Fisher Pharmacy.
“I worked with John for a year as a student,” he said.
Fisher sold the business to Bailey once Fisher decided to retire. After Duchnowski finished pharmacy school, he worked for Bailey at Fisher Pharmacy for another six years. Fisher Pharmacy, located in Cahokia, is still open.
Duchnowski said after six years, a friend of his from the Alton Multi-Specialist building said they were looking for a pharmacy to move into the building.
“That’s when Jerry and I came together and opened up the pharmacy,” he said. “We’ve been here for 15 years.”
Bailey died in 2010.
Duchnowski said he owes his success to his employees and loyal customers.
“We will do the same thing we have always done. Our whole purpose is our customer service and to make sure the medications are right,” he said. “We have a rapport with our customers that others don’t have.”
The success for B&D is the employees’ close relationship with customers. To the employees of B&D, the customers are like family.
“We have some who just sit and talk with us. If they want to get out of their house, they’ll come by and sit and talk with us,” he said. “We enjoy that.”
Duchnowski also says he owes a lot to his two workers, Mary and Jeremy.
“They work very hard, and that’s what keeps us going. They are good with the people,” he said. “They are the best two techs around. They keep up with the computer technical side of it.
“I’m getting old,” he said, chuckling. “I leave it up to them.”
Although Duchnowski is one of the area’s last independent pharmacies, it has never been easy for him.
“Back then when you set your prices and the place down the road was cheaper, that’s where the customer would go. Nowadays, the prices are the same. For us, it takes 10 or 15 minutes max to fill your prescription – rather than somewhere else where you would have to wait a few hours for your prescription,” he said.
B&D was one of the first area pharmacies to cater to animals and children. B&D also is the only pharmacy involved with Medicare billing.
“A lot of places won’t deal with Medicare billing because of all of the changes in Medicare rules,” Duchnowski said. “You have to be certified, which we are. You also have to go through special training and obtain a special license to be a Medicare provider.”
Duchnowski said he has many diabetic patients who rely on Medicare.
B&D offers free delivery on prescriptions throughout most of Madison County – with the exception of Medicare.
“We are not allowed to deliver any Medicare items,” he said.
“We are very patient-oriented. Everything we do is geared toward our patients. We just want them to be happy,” he said.
“We’ve been here a long time, and we plan on staying here. People don’t have to be afraid if they call their pharmacy and it’s getting switched over; we’ll always be here,” he said.