With the support and encouragement of his mom and dad, and knowing his wife Tammy and six-year-old daughter Grace keep the homefront running smoothly, Danny McNease has been able to keep the only independently-owned pharmacy in Huntsville thriving and growing. Although McNease Drugs faces the competition of big-name pharmacies, they “Stay ahead of the game by providing the best customer service possible within the limits of practicality,” stated Danny when questioned about the success of this hometown drugstore.
Growing up in a rural setting in Hancock County, Mississippi made this pharmacist a perfect fit for the small town closeness of Huntsville’s citizenry. “I am at home here. I’ve found my place. Huntsville is a perfect fit.” Danny completed his degree at the College of Pharmacy at the University of Houston. His journey continued north when he began working at Kroger in Conroe. Finally, Interstate 45 brought Danny to Walmart in Huntsville, where he worked for two-and-a-half years before a local drug store came up for sale.
When Danny purchased this facility in July of 2000, there was not a great deal of volume—20-25 prescriptions per day. Now however, through the support of the community, this flourishing business fills an average of 500 prescriptions daily. In turn for the outpouring from local citizens, Danny strives to give back to the area. He chooses to spend resources on sponsoring local events and/or teams, such as supporting the upcoming Walker County Fair and Rodeo.
Although there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the field of medicine, and a continual evolving of the pharmaceutical world experiencing the adventurous vicissitudes of continually changing legislation, McNease Drugs faces the challenges as a family, all the while smiling and having fun along the way. During the first five years of owning this business, Danny was the only pharmacist. Now there are three other pharmacists on staff, which allows this family man more quality time with his wife and young child. Sharon Carey, Amy Hambright, (Pharmacy Director), and David Plath now help McNease serve our community. The remaining staff range in age from 18 up to 69. Kellie Jo (KJ) Kibby, Pharmacy Manager, partners with Amy to “keep things going.” Danny says, “KJ and Amy are a good team as they spearhead the day to day operations.”
Bookkeeper Barbara Keeling worked for the previous owner and has remained on staff for the 14 years Danny has owned the store. Barbara noted that this considerate man is as concerned with his employees as he is with his customers. “He is very caring. This is a wonderful place to work…he makes everybody feel appreciated. It is a fun place to work. We take care of business. We get things done, but we also have fun times where we laugh, joke, and cut up.”
Danny hires college students as cashiers. “If we see they have interest and potential in becoming a pharmacy technician, we try to help them pursue that goal.” Some stay for one to three years; some have stayed on staff beyond their graduation. Danny’s goal is to develop the pharmacy technicians “in-house” who have learned the McNease philosophy of putting the customer first. “They understand what we do. They are not just running a cash register.”
That philosophy centers on customer service. “We want to have the best customer service while remaining a viable business. We want to have the prescriptions ready faster than anywhere else while being accurate. This business is about doing it right. I also want people to ‘feel at home’ when they come in. I want them to feel comfortable and relaxed.”
Amy Hambright redid the store towards this end. There is new carpet, new paint, and new chairs. As you enter the store, there is a living room area in which the customers wait for their orders. “I want the customer to feel like they can approach us. It is a team effort. When the customer works with us, we can have the best outcome possible. You can go anywhere else and get your prescription filled for basically the same price. What kind of additional benefit does the customer feel they are getting out of their drug store? Do you feel comfortable? Do you feel safe? Are you getting everything you can out of your pharmacy?”
There are several ways McNease Drugs tries to set themselves apart. This company offers free delivery of prescriptions within the city limits; they currently distribute upwards of 30 or more a day. They also have two to three cash registers running at all times. Danny believes it is important for his customers to get in and get out as quickly as possible, which is why he has twice the staff of other drug stores with similar volume.
Sometimes the pharmacy technicians are assisted by a robot, the Parata Max. It fills about half of the solid tablet/capsule prescriptions. This machine will count the pills, label the bottle, and cap the container. “It takes a lot of human error out of the process. It might make a tablet-counting error about one out of every thousand tablets,” stated Danny. The robot interfaces to the computer. “The computer sends the prescription to the Parata Max. It fills it, comes out, and files it alphabetically.” Danny also quipped, “Parata Max doesn’t have a bad day or get distracted by upcoming finals.” Although McNease Drugs tries to stay on the cutting edge of technology, they concentrate on the “old school” values of customer service first.
As I was leaving from the interview, I spotted an elderly lady struggling to walk to the door. She was able to literally park directly in front of the door. The environment she was about to enter was a place of comfort, concern, and true patient care. Her needs were going to be met, and she was going to be treated with respect and a smile. The McNease Drugs website states the pharmacy gives “full state of the art, professional service.” Their goals are focused on attending to the customer in every sense of the word.