The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Money

December 23, 2012

Small-town service

OAK HILL —

OAK HILL — Martin Njoku, the owner of Oak Hill’s newest pharmacy, says his business is about more than filling prescriptions for locals.

“It’s more than medicine to us,” is his motto. “You matter; we’ll treat you like family.”

Njoku opened Oak Hill Hometown Pharmacy at the Fountain Terrace Mall a month ago, fulfilling a lifelong dream.

A native of Nigeria who came to study at Southwest Oklahoma State University in 1981, Njoku has enjoyed a full career in the corporate pharmacy world, but he always wanted more.

Soon after graduation, he was recruited by Rite Aid to come to West Virginia because of a dearth of pharmacists. That was before the University of Charleston had its pharmacy school, said Njoku.

He spent 21 years working at Rite Aid and then a year and a half at AccessHealth before making the leap to self-employment.

“I’ve been trying to do this for a long time, but when you have little ones at home, you can’t take those kinds of risks,” he said.

So he waited until his children went off to college before taking on this new challenge.

The Njokus’ eldest daughter, Syretta, is studying at pharmacy school and her mother, Margaret, says one day she may come back and work with her father. A younger daughter, Moriah, is a student at Marshall University.

“It’s something I’ve had in my heart, and it’s the right time to make that move now,” he said. “My entire career I’ve wanted to own my own pharmacy.”

“This is his passion. I’ve never seen him be more excited or happy. He’s in heaven,” said Margaret, a Beckley native.

Setting his own rules is appealing. Njoku says the advantage of owning his own business is that he doesn’t have to go up the corporate chain of command when he wants to do something special for a client.

If someone runs out of medicine after hours or on a weekend, for example, they can call him and he can personally deliver their medicine.

Njoku says he chose to locate his business in Oak Hill because he knows a lot of people here already and wants to serve them better.

“There are a lot of good folks in this area,” he said.

“Living in a small town like Oak Hill makes it possible to provide that kind of service. We are like a family here. That’s why I chose the name ‘hometown,’ because of the smallness of this area, where everybody knows everybody.”

The pharmacy is located in former laundromat space at Fountain Terrace Mall. It was in pretty bad shape before Margaret tackled it. She put her real estate work on hold so she could help renovate, decorate and organize the space.

“We took our time to make sure it was fixed up and looked nice,” she said.

The Njokus held a grand opening with snacks and door prizes to launch the enterprise. Margaret says business is good so far. A couple of his clients drive all the way from Beckley to use his services.

So why should someone switch pharmacists? Perhaps surprisingly, Njoku says they shouldn’t — without good reason.

“If you’re happy with your pharmacist, there is no need to change,” he said. “But if you are unhappy with the service you’re getting, I’m someone who can help. I’ve prided myself in my career on personal services.

“We all have the same products on our shelves, but some things, like personal service, we don’t all have.”

Njoku offers a “blister packaging system” to help his clients arrange their medicine on a daily and weekly basis. It’s good for the elderly, diabetics, the disabled and memory impaired patients, he said.

“Sometimes the elderly have problems taking their medicine correctly. With this, I can help solve that problem.”

Pills are organized into sealed plastic capsules with foil on the back so it’s clear when the pills have been taken.

Oak Hill Hometown Pharmacy has a Facebook page. For more information, call 304-465-0222. The pharmacy is located at 819 E. Main St. Hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and closed Sundays.

—E-mail: cmoore@register-herald.com

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