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.”