Pharmacist buys into the big box revolution

Size matters to Darrell Pasloski. In the new Shoppers Drug Mart in what remains of the Qwanlin Mall, you’ll see it too: a prominent pharmacy,…

Size matters to Darrell Pasloski.

In the new Shoppers Drug Mart in what remains of the Qwanlin Mall, you’ll see it too: a prominent pharmacy, wide aisles and long, long hours.

“It’s a big store now,” says Pasloski, the owner.

So big, in fact, that Pasloski has gone high-tech to overcome some of the problems that come with larger formats.

Over at the pharmacy, in the back, he hands over a little bicycle-light-sized gadget that’s vibrating.

“We’ll give you a pager,” he says.

“And when your prescription’s ready, it goes off.”

In March, the small-town Shoppers outlet began staking out new territory in and across the hall of the old mini-mall, where 14 stores morphed into just five.

Just four months later, Pasloski’s first Shoppers — he owns the store on Main Street as well (and no, it’s not closing) — opened officially last week to join the growing ranks of big-box shopping opportunities in the Yukon.

Earlier this year, Canadian Tire opened one of its largest stores in Whitehorse. Canadians like Canadian Tire, just as RVers seem to swarm to Wal-Mart (yes, the free overnight parking helps).

Though Shoppers doesn’t have nearly the same folk-allure, Pasloski says he’s done fairly well giving the new store a local atmosphere.

The father of four has been a pharmacist and business owner in the territory for 17 years.

He came to run the Shoppers store in the mall, all the while eyeing the city’s other Shoppers.

Four years after settling into his first store, the Shoppers on Main Street came up for sale.

“I saw that opportunity back in the ‘90s,” he says.

“You didn’t have a lot of two-store owners back then.”

Though he’s invested heavily in time and money in the store’s expansion, his success has come though his primary currency.

Social capital.

“There’s a relationship that people have with their drug store that’s maybe different than the large-format stores,” he says.

“People like to be able to say, ‘this is my drugstore.’

“They like when they come in the back and the pharmacist knows who they are and who their kids are.”

The pharmacy, which he calls “the core of our business,” will be open whenever the rest of the store is: until 10 p.m. every night, except Christmas Day.

“In the (other) big boxes, its part of what they do. It’s certainly not the centrepiece of their business,” he says.

And his customers are responding well to the change.

As he attended to last-minute chores the day of the “soft” opening last week, scads of neighbours, friends, and clients offered their well-wishings.

“Good to see you, Darrell”

“This is wonderful!”

“Congratulations!”

He answered jovially, and then raced off to the next pressing matter.

He had things on his mind.

He had various staffing and logistics matters mostly under control by opening day; the only hitch was that the first frozen foods delivery malfunctioned.

“Oh well, at least the ice cream is still on its way,” he told himself.

Pasloski stops in front of the barren freezers.

“The truck pulled up, opened the door, and it was just oozing out,” he grimaces.

He heads back to the pharmacy.

Elton John croons over the background speaker, which plays nonstop soft and upbeat tunes.

A reporter asks Pasloski whether he’s trying to target any specific demographic.

“I think what you’ll find if you look is that not as many people are leaving the Yukon as they used to,” he says.

People used to move up, make money, and move out. Today, more Yukoners are retiring here.

Some families are even bringing their aging parents up from the South, he says.

Pasloski floats back to the front of the store, and back again to the pharmacy to point out some of the secondary features that are new: a staffed do-it-yourself, semi-private photo-printing station, a spacious prescription waiting area (seating four), and a frosted-glassed private room for the more delicate or difficult pharmacist consultations.

“Some people have more or less comfort and, if they are really concerned,”— he motions over to the frosted sliding door— “that’s available for people.”

“One of pharmacists is a certified diabetic educator as well,” he adds.

He’s also eager to show-off the sheer variety of goods and larger sections in the bigger-better Shoppers: baby toys, dry and frozen foods, vitamin and nutritional aids and greeting cards.

However, to access any of it you have to walk through the scent zone, which stands sentinel at the front entrance.

Second to the pharmacy, the store focuses on beauty and feel-good products, he says.

There’s even a special skin and body care section he’s happy to showcase: a one-stop shop for any aspiring metrosexual male.

But while Pasloski might be asking his customers to buy into the quest for simplicity and serenity (at a price), he’s not taking his own advice.

A month ago, Pasloski announced his intention to run for the job of Yukon MP, as a Conservative, in the next federal election.

One might easily wonder if he’d biting off too much.

“There’s a saying, you know, ‘When you need something done give it to someone who’s busy,” he laughs.

The tour over, he rushes off to greet more friendly faces.

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