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Locally owned pharmacy sells to CVS

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Lisa Dunlap Photo “I would say that I know 80 percent of my customers by name,” says Charles Shannon. “I am taking care of the fifth generation of families.” Shannon and his wife, Jana, have sold Primm Drug after 35 years.

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A well-known local pharmacy will close later this month, to reopen as CVS Pharmacy a few days later.

Charles and Jana Shannon have sold Primm Drug, the business they have owned and operated for 35 years.

Approached about a year ago by both large corporations and independent pharmacies wanting to purchase a business with hundreds of loyal customers, Charles Shannon said they decided to sell when they found an offer that could meet their criteria, including offering jobs to all their employees.

“I knew that if they took care of my staff, my staff would take care of my patients,” he said. “And that was very important to me because I love this place.”

Shannon said the store at 700 N. Union Ave. will close at noon on Friday, Oct. 19. When it reopens Monday, Oct. 22, it will be a CVS Pharmacy, the first in Roswell.

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Dr. Brian Doyle, a pharmacist who began working for Primm as a delivery boy at age 16, will be the manager of the local CVS operation.

All 15 employees have been offered and accepted jobs with CVS, Shannon said, including employees with long connections to the business such as Dr. Lindsey Pearce, a pharmacist who has known the Shannons all her life, as her mother worked for Primm 35 years ago, and Debbie Coker, a technician and 24-year employee.

“I have a great crew,” he said, “if not the best, then one of the best, I have had in 35 years.”

CVS corporate managers did not respond to emails or phone calls by press time. The CVS Health corporate website indicates that the public company based in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, has about 9,800 locations nationwide, including 19 retail pharmacies and six pharmacies within Target stores in New Mexico. Those nearest to Roswell are in Hobbs and Carlsbad.

Shannon said he expects that customers will experience a “smooth” transition, as their prescriptions will be transferred to the CVS system by Oct. 22. He also said that the corporation has promised Shannon that it will allow customers to continue to charge for their prescriptions if they are on fixed incomes and need medication before their next payments.

CVS also will continue providing vaccinations at the Union Avenue location and at various community sites, which was a big part of Primm’s business. It administered more than 2,800 flu shots alone last year, in addition to other types of vaccinations. New CVS features are expected to include a drive-through window, being open seven days a week and, eventually, a MinuteClinic to be staffed by a physician’s assistant or a nurse practitioner.

Shannon said he and his wife are ready to transition to a new chapter in their life, after more than four decades of working together.

They married 45 years ago as Shannon was finishing his pharmacy degree at Southwestern Oklahoma School of Pharmacy. He worked for a chain drug store in Texas and Clovis for about 10 years. Then they purchased Primm Drug with a business partner in 1983. At that time, the store was located on the corner of West Second Street and North Union Avenue.

“It was a gathering place,” he said. “We had the (soda) fountain. We had chili. We had ‘ape shakes.’ … We had so much fun in that building. All the old-timers … would come in every morning for coffee.”

In 1988, the pharmacy moved to another location on North Union Avenue. Then, in 2010, the Shannons constructed their own building at the current location.

“I am very proud of something about this building,” he said. “Everything in this building was done by local people. The only thing that I couldn’t get done with local folks was the stainless steel counters. I had to go out of town for that because all the local folks were busy working for the dairies.”

More than other aspects of the business, though, recalling his relationship with staff and patients is what brings tears to his eyes.

“I am going to miss the people. I still choke up. You get so attached to folks. They come in here and they grab you and they give you a hug. They say ‘thank you,’” he said. “I would say that I know 80 percent of my customers by name. I am taking care of the fifth generation of families.”

The personal service provided at Primm included individual consultations with people regarding medications or medical devices, assisting some people in financial need, having a pharmacist on-call 24 hours every day and delivering medications to emergency rooms and hospitals after ensuring that any new medications given would not be in conflict with other prescriptions. He also was one of the first pharmacists in the state to offer over-the-counter naloxone, used to treat opioid overdoses.

Some of his customers include other pharmacists. Through its professional compounding lab, one of the few in the region, Primm has been making medications to fit individual needs and mailing them to pharmacies throughout southern New Mexico.

Although most Primm employees will remain, Shannon’s two daughters, Amy and Bethany, do plan to move sometime after the business sale. Amy, who works in the Primm compounding lab, plans to pursue a master’s degree in Tennessee, while Bethany, a bookkeeper and certified occupational therapist, expects to relocate to Oklahoma.

Traveling to visit their daughters, three grandchildren and other relatives will take up some of Charles and Jana’s free time, but he said he and his wife are in Roswell to stay.

“This is home,” he said. “We’ve got a place between Mayhill and Cloudcroft, and we’ll be spending a little more time up there.”

He added that he and Jana also plan to keep up their community volunteer efforts, which include the Elks, the Eastern New Mexico State Fair and other causes.

“I am glad to know that Charles isn’t leaving Roswell,” said Richard Lucero, who works with the Roswell Neighborhood Watch and the Chaves County Crime Stoppers group. “We are going to miss having a local pharmacy. Charles knew all of us and could work with each one of us individually. But the important thing is that he will still be in Roswell. I work with him on the Chaves County Crime Stoppers board, and he is an important part of that organization.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.