Herne Bay Pharmacy 2012

A pharmacy business with its heart in the community

  • Herne Bay 2012

    A beautifully restored villa is the home for Geraldine's new Herne Bay Pharmacy.

When Herne Bay Pharmacy owner, Geraldine Phillips received an eviction notice from her landlord last August, she was devastated.

The successful business she had built up over nearly two decades was under threat.  But what Geraldine hadn’t counted on was the incredible community support she was about to receive.

When we last caught up with Geraldine in our Spring 2010 newsletter, business had been going well.  “Things were great.  The Pharmacy had been renovated and we were really busy,” she says.  “Then out of the blue, while I was away at a conference, I received a fax advising me I had two weeks to get out.  Although I knew the lease was coming up for renewal later in the year, a mix up with dates meant we were caught by surprise.”

Geraldine discovered her landlord was planning to take over her business in conjunction with another pharmacist. Not one to take things lying down, she began immediately looking for new premises and word quickly spread of her situation.

“People hate bullies and we were treated so appallingly that the public responded passionately.  The media got wind of what was happening and suddenly, the whole thing went viral.  When TVNZ’s Close Up programme did an interview with me, word spread even further, in fact around the globe.  Former Governor General Dame Cath Tizard, who is a very good customer, happened to walk in during the Close Up interview and lent her support – it was fantastic.”

The Sunday before she was due to be evicted, Geraldine found a hairdressing salon up the road that was perfect for a temporary pharmacy.

It was all hands to the pump.  Geraldine found herself surrounded by volunteers willing to do whatever it took to move the pharmacy to its new location.  One of Geraldine’s loyal customers, Jill Cory immediately stepped in as project manager, and together they pulled together an “incredible team of people” to help.   Everyone pitched in – the local doctors helped pack boxes; friends and customers wheeled goods up the road in shopping trolleys borrowed from the local grocer.  In December, Little Herne Bay Pharmacy opened its doors for business.

“I was overwhelmed with the support.  Even the pharmacy at Three Lamps in Ponsonby dispensed prescriptions for us until we were up and running.  Baking was delivered regularly, flowers arrived constantly – it looked more like a florist than a chemist!” she says.

Also lending a hand lifting boxes and wrapping stock, as well as providing business advice, was Markhams Auckland director, Geoff Hatten.

“Geoff was a brilliant support.  I phoned him as soon as our eviction notice arrived and he swung into action,” says Geraldine.   “I really appreciated the fact that he was always available after hours and over the Christmas break.  It was a very stressful time and I wasn’t sure of what options or direction to take.  Geoff was instrumental in helping me make decisions although I think we got to about Plan D or E,” Geraldine laughs.

Geoff heads Markhams Pharmacy Business Development Unit, which is the preferred supplier of finan cial and accounting services for members of The Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand (Inc).   The Unit gives specialist advice on matters including amalgamations and mergers, sale and purchase negotiations, accounts, lease negotiations, budgeting and cashflow, taxation, valuations and business structures.

Although Little Herne Bay Pharmacy was intended to be a temporary store, Geraldine has decided to keep it running and has just opened the new, larger Herne Bay Pharmacy in a beautifully restored building nearby.  The two businesses, although quite different, will share several functions including staffing and databases.

For Geraldine, the opening of her new pharmacy brings enormous relief and a huge sense of gratitude to everyone who helped her get there.

Published Autumn 2012.

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