Locally Owned and Locally Loved – My Small Business Fan Letter to a Store Making a Difference for People, Pets and a Top Zoo

Businesses spend a lot of money and effort on branding and marketing to capture the consumer’s attention. The best marketing campaigns are a reflection of what a business does for customers and how it helps them succeed. That is why I found a Good Neighbor Pharmacy network slogan “Locally Owned. Locally Loved” a perfect fit for Lindenwood Drugs.

It was a disastrous customer experience at another small business that first led me to the pharmacy on the corner of Lansdowne and Jamieson in the Saint Louis neighborhood of Lindenwood Park.

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My UPS package was shipped to a UPS store owned by a franchisee in Richmond Heights, Missouri for pick up. The UPS store staff received the insured package and then rejected it, sending it on a week-long odyssey where it was lost. I spent many hours on phone calls and sleuth work trying to find the package I needed desperately. Despite several visits to the UPS store on Clayton Road where the package was shipped for pick-up, the staff was rude and offered no help. The shipper was assured at another UPS store I could pick-it up at the Richmond Heights location to avoid porch thefts. Instead the staff at the UPS store accepted it initially only to propel it into the lost package abyss because I wasn’t a box holder. They didn’t seem interested in helping me get my package.

So what does a UPS package rejected by a UPS store have to do with a pharmacy in another neighborhood? Tom Hunt, owner of Lindenwood Drug offers a free service for people to have UPS packages delivered to his business for pick-up.

“It helps us create traffic plus it is a service to the community,” explains Hunt.

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His pharmacy serving as a UPS Access Point also helps fight crime allowing people a convenient way to avoid becoming victims of “porch pirates.” One in four Americans say they’ve experienced package theft according to a survey by Comcast.

After days of searching and tracking down an insured package UPS had classified as lost; I picked it up at Lindenwood Drug avoiding losing it again to porch theft.

While Hunt is keeping neighborhoods safer, his primary focus at Lindenwood Drug is keeping people healthy. The pharmacy is well known for personalized options including compounding service and delivery at competitive prices.

Lindenwood_pet_1452505_563791443702493_382433641_nLindenwood Drug’s healthy living services extend to animals as well. The Lindenwood Park business is one of a few pharmacies in St. Louis that will make human medications in dose strengths for animals. They make medications in flavors for dogs, cats, horses, birds, reptiles, and pocket pets where none is available in a veterinary form or human form that is palatable for pets. The pharmacy’s Facebook page is filled with gratitude from pet owners who found a specialized solution for their animals at Lindenwood Drug.

Hunt and the other pharmacists at Lindenwood Drug fill prescriptions for animals at the Saint Louis Zoo. During his decades of veterinary pharmacy experience, Hunt has learned a lot about animals like puffins are susceptible to lung infections and Asian elephants are prone to the herpes virus.

Whether person or pet, the staff at Lindenwood Drug offer personalized and professional service that extends well beyond the charming pharmacy’s walls. Tom Hunt and his staff seem to have your best interest in mind, like a good neighbor should. No wonder they are a part of the Good Neighbor Pharmacy Network and why many customers travel past other drug stores to shop at Lindenwood Drug.Lindenwood_1965648_682687301812906_5338784854066700399_o (1)

A Virtual Waiting Room Added to Services at the APA Adoption Center

IMG_20180417_004229 (1)Some visitors first stop is to see the dogs and cats looking for homes at the APA Adoption Center. It is fun, rivaling the birthday parties, pet showers, or some of the educational classes and workshops at the center.

My first stop at the center in Brentwood, Missouri near Saint Louis is usually the wellness clinic. One of the busiest areas of the adoption center, it serves over 10,000 pets each year.

IMG_20180214_123057The wellness clinic is where veterinary staff perform health screenings, vaccinate against disease and spay or neuter each pet prior to adoption. The APA wellness clinic is open to the public offering low-cost exams and vaccinations for pets.

I’ve found it to be a great place to meet adorable animals and great pet parents while they wait to see the veterinarian or pick up medication. The clinic reception area is a favorite hunting ground in my search for interesting stories about animal adoptions and the role pets play in their daily lives. Many owners like to share what makes their pet special. No matter how hectic life gets, our pets are there for us.

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I’ve seen fewer people and pets in the APA Wellness Clinic reception and intake area. It isn’t that there are fewer pets and people visiting, they just aren’t sitting and waiting as long anymore.

Technology is helping to take the wait and crowded waiting room out of the APA Wellness Clinic. Anyone can get in a virtual line to see a veterinarian.

It is easy to join the virtual queue from home, the office, or on the run using your phone. You’ll receive text updates and notifications on forecast wait times so you and your pet can wait where you want.photo-1423666639041-f56000c27a9a

The QLess platform in use now at the APA clinic helps people around the world every day to avoid wasting time in line at license offices, hospitals, and businesses.

“We give time back to millions of people who otherwise would have to waste time standing in line,” explains Dr. Alex Bäcker, CEO of Qless.

This technology makes it simple to get in line at the APA Wellness Clinic from home, the office or even on-the-go using your phone. The text notifications allow pet parents to stay updated about estimated wait times and when they are next in line.

“With the QLess App we’re always looking for ways to incorporate technology and improve customer service. By reducing time spent in our waiting room we can better serve people and their pets,” says Kim Brown, APA Director of Operations and Vice President.

unnamedIt is easy to join the line, just send a text message “APA Clinic” to 417-720-2235. APA clinic clients will receive a text confirming your place in the queue.

Or pet owners may join the line via a computer by visiting APA website and the virtual waiting room at https://apamo.org/pet-services/virtual-waiting-room/.

The QLess notification is not an appointment time or reservation, but a way to give APA Wellness Clinic clients freedom and flexibility to wait wherever they want.DrD

The clinic’s hours are 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday – Saturday. The APA is centrally located in Saint Louis County at 1705 South Hanley Road with easy access to interstates 64 and 40.

Learn more about the many community programs at the APA Adoption Center or how to bring home a furry friend at https://apamo.org/

 

Say My Name

There is a song stuck in my head. “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child. I know when it got stuck there and why. Each time I hear it, I recall a blustery day that became warmer because of a name tag.

It was a cold and wet start to my morning. Gusty winds made it impossible to use an umbrella as the rain rapidly turned to snow. It was a grey day outside but a bright spot for me. It was to be the first day of a new way to help some of my neighbors. I’d done some research and was full of ideas I believed could make a positive impact. As I drove along slushy side streets, it began to snow harder and 40-mile-per-hour winds whipped the flakes around limiting visibility. I arrived early and was dismayed to discover there was no place to park! I was driving around the lot looking for an empty parking space when the call came not to come in to work as scheduled. A computer crash was putting my plans for a new bigger mission on hold.

The snow was falling faster. I turned up the radio to hear it would not continue at the rapid pace much longer. The radio meteorologist called it a ‘fast-moving clipper’ with big, sloppy flakes. In a short time, driving would be easier according to the forecast. So rather than return home, I headed to a coffee shop in my favorite shopping area to wait for the snow to pass.

The coffee shop was packed as many other customers were taking a java break and waiting for the snow to slow. The line was long. Some of the coffee shop’s employees were delayed due to winter’s latest blast. Just one person was working to handle the customers at the counter and the window. I was waiting in the long line when, someone asked me if the folded newspaper on a table was mine. After I said it was not, the person behind me tapped me on my shoulder. I turned around to see a neatly dressed young man with a smile as bright as the sun.

He exclaimed, “I thought it was you, but I could not see your face. When I heard your voice I was sure.”

I stammered, “Hello, how are you?”

I attempted to place the friendly, engaging face before me. I did not have a clue. I decided to come clean and attempted to frame my inability to place him in our shared quest for caffeine.

“Please forgive me, I don’t recall your name. I can’t even remember my own name until I get some coffee,” I sheepishly explained.

The smile grew bigger, “Oh sure you do. Every time you come into my line at the store, you say, Hello, Steve. You have two white dogs who like Purina dog food. I helped take it to your car. I saw them in their back-seat dog house. You remember me.”

And he was right. Now, I did remember him. I recalled he found amusement in my dog’s frantic barking as he placed groceries beside their car-crate in the back seat. Believe me, very few people find the charm in their expressive nature right away. No, I had not recalled his name; but I did not forget his delight and wonder in how such small dogs could produce major vocal eruptions.

I always try to use people’s names when I see them on uniforms, tags or receipts. It is a practice I learned in my high-school and college retail jobs. When checking out customers I would use their names from checks or credit cards as I thanked them for their business and asked them to come again. So without his name tag on, I did not remember Steve’s name. But I recalled his enthusiasm for bagging groceries and his courteous regard for my pets.

I told him I did remember him loading the dog food into the car.

Nodding, he replied, “I have a good memory. I like your dogs and I like it when you say hello.”

I asked Steve how long he had worked at the neighborhood supermarket. I learned he began at Schnucks Markets through Paraquad, a St. Louis based non-profit that assists  individuals living with the challenges of a disability.

It was finally my turn at the counter and I ordered my coffee and hot chocolate for Steven. He took his cup to go as he walked next door to work at Schnucks. I sat down to drink my coffee and waited for the weather to clear.

It wasn’t just the coffee or the clearing skies improving my mood. I was happy to connect with Steve and be reminded of the power of a person’s name. A name used correctly can convey respect and appreciation. The moment we hear our name our ears perk up. It doesn’t take extra time to make an effort to recognize the other person as an individual. Such a simple part of social interaction; greeting someone with their name. Make an impression: say their name.

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When everything goes wrong, remember Bernie Marcus

As a journalist I like to think I can spot a story.  Not just a news headline or a tease attention getter, but a story that pulls the reader or viewer in.  A story has a clear and hopefully universal connection engaging the intended audience.

Not all stories are news.  This blog is more on the story side of things.  It is my sincere hope sharing this tiny little story will reveal some basic truths about the way the world works.  It is my sincere belief there is a thread connecting experiences.  It may take some time to notice and we are often too busy to see it, but I believe it happens more than we know.

While most of my siblings and playmates in the neighborhood would play dolls, I would pretend to be a weather girl as a child.  Back in the day, before I started school, most journalists were men.  The women on the local network affiliates were doing the weather.  So, I pretended to be a weather girl using the straightest stick I could find.  If my younger brother and sister didn’t listen as intently as I thought they should, there might be a well-placed whack in their future from the handy weather pointer.  After a few whacks, I no longer had a pretend audience for my weather forecasts.  I was undeterred; I used a shorter stick for a pretend microphone and would interview my dolls.  They didn’t talk back and try to leave in the middle of a pretend broadcast.

The fall of 1964 interrupted my burgeoning broadcasting career because the stick had to be put away as I would start school.  I hit the books but never forgot my dreams of reporting and being a part of the small screen.   I took part in theatre, volunteered to read to the blind over the radio, did anything I could to prepare myself for becoming a story-teller on the tube.  I had abandoned the early hope of a career in meteorology because by the time I reached high-school the “weather girls” had morphed into serious meteorologists.  The study of meteorology requires solid math skills and third grade was the last grade I did not fear arithmetic.

I had the opportunity to be the announcing voice at the first “garden show” in my community when I was a junior in high school.  I jumped at the opportunity.  It was only two or three nights, but I would travel into the city and be announcing in the biggest civic center in my home state!   This was heady stuff for a teen-ager.  This announcing job at the garden show introduced me to the world of home improvement.  I began working at a now-defunct store named “Handy Dan”; a job I would work during high school and college until I landed my first reporting position at a small television station in 1980.  I worked almost full-time at “Handy Dan” while going to school full-time so I learned a lot in the classroom and on the aisles of the store.

I’ve been thinking about those “Handy Dan” days a lot this week.  A philanthropist and legendary entrepreneur came up in an editorial meeting at my office this week.  The business owner who was listed among the top charitable donors in the nation for his $200 million donation to the Georgia Aquarium is making small business news. So why would Bernie Marcus remind me of my high school and college days at Handy Dan?  You see, the retailer isn’t best known as one of the first home improvement chains.  It has another distinction.  Marcus and I were both employees of Handy Dan.  The defunct retailer is best known in the business world for firing Marcus.  The day after Handy Dan gave him a pink slip, Marcus put a plan into motion that led to the founding of “The Home Depot.”

So on days when it seems like nothing is going right on your job, remember Bernie Marcus.  If I get the opportunity to interview him, I hope he will remember me.  I can still recall some of my memorized announcements; “Good evening Handy Dan shoppers, the time is now 8:50 and all departments of your Handy Dan will be closing in ten minutes. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for shopping with us, and hope you will visit again soon.  Handy Dan will re-open……”

Entrepreneurial Lessons Earned Under a Shade Tree

It is summer and here in the Midwest a hot, humid and sticky day.  So it took some pretty compelling marketing and salesmanship to move me to leave the air conditioned comfort of my car as I drove through a city neighborhood.   But I could not drive past a refreshing tableau on a shaded street corner.  With a folding table and crudely printed brown card-board sign, the youngster I would come to know as Jason, offered lemon-aide or fruit punch for a buck a glass.  This marketing approach appealed to much more than my thirst.

Young Jason made a sale.  I got a refreshing drink and a longer trip down memory lane than I care to admit.  Before the first sip, I began thinking of my first entrepreneurial venture launched in my parent’s suburban front yard when I was about four or five years old.  I don’t remember my exact age, but I remember the lesson I learned about customer service and delivering what you’ve advertised.

My family had just moved to house in the shadow of a big high school and middle school.  The older kids would cut through my family’s yard to get to and from the athletic fields.  I was interested in all the equipment and the strange looking contraptions many of the older boys were wearing and carrying as they left the football practice fields in an Alabama summer.  The athletes seemed hot and tired as they were making their way home.

I got the idea I should open a drink stand to market to these thirsty athletes and I tried to talk my Mother into backing the venture.  She thought she had found her out when she informed me she didn’t have lemons for me to make lemon-aide.  I kept pestering Mom and she offered up a recipe and ingredients for “soda water.”  While I didn’t know what “soda water” was, it sounded pretty good.  After all, I knew soda was fizzy and came in great flavors like grape, orange and cola; so soda water was something I felt sure I could sell.

I printed up my sign for soda water, got my table set up in the yard near where the student athletes left practice, and went in for the cups and the soda water.  My mother pulled out baking soda and water and mixed it together as I watched expectantly.  If things went the way I thought they would, Mom was going to be mixing quite a few pitchers.  I went out with a few paper cups, ice and my pitcher of soda water.

It wasn’t long before a group of thirsty students were cutting through the yard after a hot summer practice and saw my set up.  They put down their coins and I poured their soda water and for about two seconds I was on top of the world as a soda water mogul.  Because as soon as my three customers took the first sip, there was a simultaneous spit-take!  This comedic technique wasn’t what I expected at all!  It turns out, my customers shared my impression that soda water would be in the cola family and not water mixed with baking soda.  I offered them refunds.  They declined, asking me instead to have lemon aide or fruit punch the next day.

I ran inside with my profits and their request, I wanted Mom to take me to the store right away so I could invest in my new enterprise and be ready for the next day.  But my mother told me it wasn’t right to take the money for something that wasn’t a real value.  She sheepishly admitted she’d come up with the soda-water as a way for me to “play”. Mom never thought I’d really make a sale, much less three!

We did go to the supermarket and get the makings for lemon aide and the next day when the trio came by my house after practice, they got their refreshing drink and their money back, I kept the stand open for a couple of days, before I moved on to another pre-school pursuit.  I don’t remember what interest pulled me away from the little front yard stand, but I will always remember the lessons it taught me.