PORT TOWNSEND — Don Hoglund has sold his namesake pharmacy, but he’s not about to stop working there.
The old-school drugstore, run by Hoglund’s family since 1961, has been purchased by Patrick O’Donnell of Gig Harbor, the owner of Lincoln Pharmacy in Tacoma and nearby Fircrest Pharmacy. The deal was made with a handshake Jan. 1, O’Donnell said, with the rest of the transaction still in progress.
“Given my age, and the changes occurring in our profession, I felt it was an appropriate time,” said Hoglund, 61.
He’ll stay on the team of three pharmacists at Don’s, working about 15 hours a week because, he said, he can’t imagine not doing that.
A few years ago, O’Donnell, 46, was in Port Townsend and walked into Don’s, which then had its popular soda fountain open alongside the pharmacy and retail store.
The store, in the plaza at 1151 Water St., was his kind of place, so he told Hoglund: If you ever want to sell, give me a call.
As 2021 approached, Hoglund got in touch with O’Donnell, whom he’d learned was an independent pharmacist like himself.
“At no point would I have ever considered aligning with a chain operation. That would be counter to my philosophy, and counter to the community’s interests,” Hoglund said.
O’Donnell, for his part, has the resources to continue to run Don’s — and the name on the door will stay the same — as a community pharmacy with compounding services. He’ll also add the immunizations and health testing that are the future of drugstores.
Then there’s the question asked by numerous customers: What will become of the soda fountain? For decades, since Don’s Pharmacy was in its original spot at Water and Taylor streets, the fountain has been the site of beloved, thick milkshakes.
The pandemic closed it down in early 2020, but there’s a scenario in which the restaurant could reopen later this year, both Hoglund and O’Donnell said.
“We’ve got some feelers out to see if there’s a right person who wants to continue it,” as a separate business, said the new owner, while Hoglund added it was more successful that way.
When his father, Don Sr., ran the pharmacy, the soda fountain was operated by an independent proprietor. Later, after the store moved to its current location in June 1967, Hoglund and his staff absorbed it. Though the fountain was known far and wide for its cuisine and atmosphere, it wasn’t much of a money-maker.
Even if the new owner does bring in a soda fountain operator, he must wait for the state to allow it to open; “it could be midsummer before that kind of establishment could get a green light,” O’Donnell said.
As for the rest of Don’s, there are no changes in staffing planned except for Hoglund’s choice to go part time. The store has 10 employees — half what it did pre-pandemic — and O’Donnell said he’ll stick with the practices that made Don’s a flourishing business.
“There are so many things people want in there,” he said of the merchandise, which ranges from cookware to children’s toys.
Hoglund spoke of another feature of his store.
“I was asked years ago by a student of pharmacy: What’s my favorite thing about this work?,” he said.
“It’s the interaction with customers and the medical community. I also said that if you do go into this profession, stay with the practice setting you have. As time evolves, you develop relationships with patients, relationships you cannot put a value on.”
Hoglund added that at this point, he’s gotten to know five generations of customers.
“I’ve been very lucky,” he said.
“It’s bittersweet,” this transition, “but I really feel strongly that this is going to be the best for the business and the best for the community.”
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]