Small Business Spotlight: A to Z Pharmacy

Kristen Moore, owner of A to Z Pharmacy, offers many services that larger, chain shops don’t, including custom blister-packaging and medication delivery.

Pharmacist Kristen Moore wasn’t looking to start a business when she was laid off from her job at a Cary Rite Aid. Her loyal customers convinced her to give entrepreneurship a try, and Moore opened A to Z Pharmacy in March 2019.

The business was named for its inventory — a little bit of everything — and for her children’s initials — Andrew, Abby and Zach.

Although the shop is new, Moore has an experienced team. One of her first hires was pharmacist Debbie Skakle, who joined the A to Z team in April 2020. Previously employed at the Cary Harris Teeter pharmacy, Skakle has been a pharmacist for more than 25 years.

Pharmacist Debbie Skakle serves customers in a workplace decorated by local artists.

“She has brought more than 500 patients with her from Harris Teeter pharmacy, and is most likely the reason we’re still open,” said Moore about her colleague. “She has a passion for her patients and goes above and beyond consistently for them and for me.”

Owning an independent pharmacy hasn’t been easy, but Moore says connecting with and serving customers makes it worthwhile. She recently shared a few thoughts about the business.

Why did you want to open your own pharmacy?

I was a pharmacy manager at Rite Aid in Cary, and Walgreens bought the chain. Our store was closed, and I was laid off. I hunted for a new job for a little while, but my patients encouraged me to open my own store. I thought it was impossible until I heard it enough times to look into actually doing it. The idea of not being bound to quotas and metrics and being able to get back to providing excellent patient care was a huge motivator for me.

Pets are welcome in the store, as long as they are leashed. A to Z also carries pet prescriptions and other necessities.

What services or products do you offer that are different from a chain pharmacy?

Debbie (Skakle) and I know our patients by name. We know about their medicine, as well as their kids, jobs, grandkids, and other important things because we take the time to listen. The pharmacist answers the phone 90% of the time, not a machine.

We blister package medication for patients — all morning meds in one bubble, evening meds in another bubble. It is a labor-intensive process, and the chains don’t have time to do that. We were (and still are) offering the shingles vaccine even when it was on backorder at the chains.

We also offer a mobile app that can be used to request refills, transfer prescriptions, set up a delivery, and look up information about medications.

Kristen Moore, owner of A to Z Pharmacy, invited local artists and artisans to display their work in her spacious waiting room.

Why is delivery service part of your business model?

We have been delivering medicines and non-prescription products since we opened. It is a free service we provide for patients within 5 miles of here. There are many reasons people choose to have us deliver their medicine: Busy schedules, illness, not driving in the dark, and mobility issues. Due to the pandemic, we have been delivering much more, and we’ve done a lot of curbside service.

What has been the biggest challenge as a small business owner?

The biggest challenge was realizing that about 30% of the prescriptions we fill, we lose money on. The insurance companies pay us less than what it costs for us to buy many medications. Because a couple of the big chain pharmacies own some of the largest insurance companies, they penalize their patients by making them pay higher copays to go to a competitor pharmacy. These two issues were eye-opening to me, and the independent pharmacy lobby is fighting hard to level the playing field.

Why open an art gallery in your waiting room?

My waiting area is pretty large, and I wasn’t sure exactly what to do with it. My friend is a photographer, so he asked if he could hang and sell some of his and his friends’ photos here. It sounded like a great idea — I got “free” decorations on my walls, and he could display and sell some pictures. We repainted the walls, hung the photos, and the A to Z Gallery was born. We have a few pictures of the Cary Art Center, butterflies, bees and other visually interesting pieces.

We’ve expanded from just photography, and since the pandemic, we’ve added a local crafts section. The pandemic closed Lazy Daze and Spring Daze, so I asked some of the crafters if they wanted a spot in my store. We now have almost 10 people who sell their crafts here. We have a wide variety of products: jewelry, purses, jackets, clay gnomes and fairies, candles, cement flower pots and candle holders, laser-cut wood, and yarn-based crafts.

Living up to its name, the shop stocks a little of everything — from handcrafted jewelry to over-the-counter and prescription medications.

What has been the best thing about owning the business?

It has really brought my family closer together. My husband has been extremely supportive of me. He is working extra hours to make sure we can keep our family budget running while I grow the pharmacy enough to turn a profit. He listens to my worries and offers suggestions to help reduce my stress levels.

My daughter works with me on Saturdays, and she is a huge help answering the phone and filing paperwork. My sons help me put together packets of paperwork for the flu shot clinics we hold in neighborhoods and for the current COVID vaccines. My in-laws helped me physically build the pharmacy. We laid the floors and painted for a few weeks in 2019. My parents have helped me with some start-up costs, and marketing and business ideas.

I feel like I can do anything I set my mind to, because I know I have the support of my family.

A to Z Pharmacy
1105 Ballena Circle, Cary
(919) 650-3883

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