Pharmacy/convenience store coming to downtown Champaign

CHAMPAIGN — Downtown Champaign is expected to get a new pharmacy and convenience store in a matter of months.

CompleteCare Pharmacy, which already has locations in downtown Springfield and Chatham, plans to open at 14 E. Washington St., C, on the first floor of the Hickory Building.

The store, which will carry convenience foods and household supplies as well as prescription and over-the-counter drugs, could open as early as December, said Bob Pemberton, manager of Independence Holding Co., CompleteCare's parent company.

It would be the first time since 1991 that downtown Champaign has had a pharmacy outside a clinic setting. Cavett-Rexall Drug operated a store at 2 Main St. from 1979 to 1989, when it was sold to Hook's, and Hook's operated the store for another two years.

In a market dominated by both Walgreens and CVS, Pemberton said CompleteCare aims to provide service and "a hands-on approach ... in a way the chains don't."

He said CompleteCare is counting on good foot traffic from people who live or work in downtown Champaign. Plus, there's street parking along the front and side of the building to accommodate people who come by car.

The store plans to employ seven people, including at least two pharmacists and some pharmacy technicians, he said.

Hours are expected to be 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays, he added.

"We have one (downtown location) in Springfield that's done very well," Pemberton said, and Champaign may have the same potential.

Independence Holding, a wholly owned subsidiary of health care products distributor H.D. Smith, began operating in Chatham in 2000 and opened the Springfield store two years later, Pemberton said.

In Champaign, CompleteCare has leased about 5,000 square feet, with plans to occupy some of the space previously occupied by B. Lime, Pro Computer Solutions and Champaign County Democrats.

Michael Markstahler, who owns the building with his wife, Janice Juraska, said the pharmacy will take most of the building's Washington Street frontage. Only a 800-square-foot space to the west remains to be leased, he said.

Pemberton said the pharmacy will occupy the northeast corner of the store, with an adjacent room where immunizations can be given.

Over-the-counter drugs and other health care products will be on the store's east side, while foods — including frozen foods, milk, eggs, lunch meat, soups, breads, soda and candy — will be on the west side.

The store also plans to sell lottery tickets, Pemberton said.

Markstahler said the store will be "geared to the needs of downtowners" and "carry the kind of products essential for apartment residents." He said "hundreds of rental units and condos" are situated within four blocks of the store.

Juraska said the store's central location will make it "highly walkable for downtown residents, allowing them to leave their cars parked."

Markstahler and Juraska acquired the building in 2007. Markstahler said the building dates from 1914 and was built to accommodate automobile dealerships. Several dealerships were housed there in its early years, but the brands they represented faded.

Markstahler said the building was later home to an A&P grocery store, a farm implement dealership, and a tire and auto store, among others. For a time, the Laborers' union hall was on the second story, he said.

Today the Hickory Building has five first-floor apartments on the north side of the building and 11 apartments on the second floor, he said.

Craig Rost, Champaign's deputy city manager for economic development, called the pharmacy an important addition to downtown, especially as the city works to encourage residential and hotel development there.

Sections (2):News, Business
Topics (1):Retail
Categories (4):News, Retail, Miscellaneous, Business

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Orbiter wrote on September 05, 2012 at 8:09 am

While I applaud the arrival of an independent pharmacy to a town dominated by mega-chains, I pondered the statement "It would be the first time since 1991 that downtown Champaign has had a pharmacy".  Just what are the boundaries of "downtown Champaign"? I think most casual observers would include the corner of Neil and Green as part of "downtown", and there's a chain pharmacy there.  Still, the Washington St. location seems like a good spot. Best of luck there!

gamera wrote on September 05, 2012 at 10:09 am

Neil and Green would be more campus-area. I would say downtown is bounded by railroad tracks to the east and north, State St. on the west, and Springfield (at the most generous definition) on the south. And that is based on absolutely nothing.

Dan Newman wrote on September 05, 2012 at 9:09 am

This will be a great addition to downtown, but as a downtown resident, I sincerely hope they extend the hours for the store itself beyond their planned pharmacy hours.  The most common use case for a convenience store is needing to run and buy milk/eggs/bread/butter at odd hours, and if the store itself is only open until 6pm on weeknights and 9-1 on Saturday, I'm afraid I'll rarely be home to buy anything from them.

gamera wrote on September 05, 2012 at 10:09 am

Yah, these hours would make it so I could *never* shop there unless I was off work. :(

jdmac44 wrote on September 05, 2012 at 10:09 am

I've lived here most of my life, but I've never thought of Neil and Green as "downtown".  *shrugging shoulders*  I suppose it's pretty subjective.

Ghost77 wrote on September 05, 2012 at 11:09 am

With those hours, it's more of an inconvenience store.

bluegrass wrote on September 05, 2012 at 1:09 pm

BA-ZIING

alabaster jones 71 wrote on September 12, 2012 at 9:09 am
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The downtown area really needs a convenience store, and it would be great if it were a locally-owned store like this one instead of yet another Walgreens or CVS.  However, it kind of sounds like this store is more of a pet project for those involved than it is a serious attempt to run a successful convenient store. 

I applaud these folks for their entreprenuerial spirit, but I have no clue how this place will succeed unless they change their hours.  There is nothing "convenient" about those hours for the majority of folks who live in that area and who might patronize the store.  It's ironic that Mr. Markstahler refers to this store as "geared to the needs of downtowners" and then closes at 6 pm.  I thought mostly young people lived downtown, not senior citizens.  It also sounds like they will have a pretty limited selection of available items.  This will all add up to the people of downtown ignoring the store and continuing to make the trip down to CVS at Neil and Green (which, no, is not located in the downtown area) instead.

With all due respect to these folks, I think they need to check the year on their calenders (or their iPhones if they aren't as old-fashioned in their personal habits as they are in business sense).  It doesn't say 1952 on there.  That's a year where a store like this might succeed in that location, not 2012.