Legends: Ralph and Daphne Ashworth

Legend: A person who has had a standout and long-running career in the business world and garnered a reputation as one of the top businesspeople in Western Wake

Ashworth. It’s a name familiar to everyone in Cary, whether they know all the members of the family personally or just have a sense that they’re “big” in town. Ashworth Drugs, Ashworth Village and numerous Hallmark stores are pieces of the legacy. Now expanded to two sons and two grandsons, it all started with Ralph and Daphne Ashworth.

Husband and wife as well as partners in business, the couple moved to Cary in 1957 from Fuquay-Varina. They bought Adam’s Drugs from its then-owner, doubling its size in 1960. In 1972, they bought the building as well. Afterward, a neighbor inquired whether they would be interested in purchasing an old adjacent home. At first Ralph was tempted to decline, but then he decided to buy not only the house, but also the library next door. Ashworth Village was born.

“I wanted more traffic downtown, and this gave the opportunity to add more businesses,” he said. He didn’t know his decision would eventually turn his family name into a Cary staple.

Eleven years ago, the property was zoned for mixed-use development, and three upstairs apartments were added to the complex. Today, the village houses 14 businesses.

Soon after arriving in Cary, Daphne set out wanting to open a Hallmark store, but when she requested permission from the company she was turned down because Cary was deemed too small to support a branch. She kept asking, though, and in 1969 the couple opened their first store.

“At the time we started Cary couldn’t support one, and now we have five (in Cary alone),” Ralph said. Add to that additional stores outside of Cary and two more coming soon, and the Ashworths will soon own 17.

Today, son Paul runs the pharmacy at Ashworth Drugs. Gary returned to the family business when the couple had five Hallmark stores to take care of accounting, and Gary’s two sons Scott and Chris are now involved with Hallmark as operations manager and special events, computer events and merchandise manager, respectively. The elder Ashworths still keep an eye on their businesses, but both agree that a perk of working with family is being able to take a step away from the business to enjoy life and trust it’s in good hands.

It wasn’t always so easy, though. “If you’re going to go into business you have to be willing to make some sacrifices — time and family,” Ralph advised — which Daphne says he does a lot.

“He always gives me advice, and if I don’t want it, it goes in here and out here,” Daphne said, gesturing to her right and left ears, respectively.

How do they feel about being a Legend and a name known to everyone in Cary?

“We don’t think about it,” Daphne said. They’re just happy to be in town. “We think Cary’s a wonderful place to come, and it hasn’t changed its wonderfulness.”

2 Comments

  • Priscilla Stedman says:

    When we first moved to Cary (from Denver, CO) we needed our prescriptions refilled and went to Ashworth Drug. We were always treated like “family” from the moment we stepped into the store. Being new in town we didn’t have checks with our new address on it. Ralph trusted us and cashed our checks. That’s just the kind of person he is, very friendly and trusting. We appreciated being treated so kindly, being strangers in our new home town.
    I always loved the town of Cary because it was, is a friendly community. I love all the beautiful old homes in downtown Cary, and glad they are still there. But, it saddens me the disrepair of the Ivey-Ellington House. Was just reading about it on Snopes. That is one of my favorite homes in downtown Cary. I hope it can be restored and left where it is.
    I loved living in Cary and miss the small town atmosphere of it. But, the last time we were there Cary has grown, as towns tend to do.
    Anyway, thank you Ralph for trusting us when we first walked into your drug store, for being so friendly towards us newcomers! It was greatly appreciated.
    Enjoyed reading about you when looking you up in Google.
    Take care and have a happy day. Sincerely, Priscilla Stedman

  • Priscilla Stedman says:

    P.S. Daphne, Forgot to mention I always enjoyed going to the Hallmark store at Cary Mall. Loved all the Hallmark Christmas decorations, the wonderful cards for every occasion. Where we live now, our shopping center had a Hallmark store, but it closed. Miss that store. But, make my own cards now using my Hallmark program online. It comes in handy when needing a card right now (especially sympathy cards). It’s just not the same as going to a Hallmark store:(
    Priscilla Stedman

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