Longtime Oak Harbor business Island Drug sets up at new location, opens Monday

Island Drug owner Aaron Syring, right in red shirt, discusses progress of the building while standing in the new ‘Apple a Day Cafe’ inside the new store. - Ron Newberry/Whidey News-Times
Island Drug owner Aaron Syring, right in red shirt, discusses progress of the building while standing in the new ‘Apple a Day Cafe’ inside the new store.
— image credit: Ron Newberry/Whidey News-Times

The past two weeks are a blur for Betsy Zick.

As the front end manager of Island Drug, she’s been tasked with leading a smooth transition between the current store site on Pioneer Way and the new building on State Highway 20 that opens to the public Monday morning.

Several times a day, she’s packed up her blue 1997 Dodge Saturn and driven over speed bumps and back roads to sign for deliveries, transfer merchandise and offer general guidance.

She estimates her record is 10 trips in one day.

“It’s my second home,” she said with a smile.

The whirlwind of activity isn’t expected to slow down until the new site opens its drive-through at 8 a.m. Monday. The doors will open to the public at 9 a.m., completing a transition that began with a groundbreaking last fall.

Desiree Elrod, the store’s customer service supervisor, said there is a short timeline from when the old store on Pioneer Way closes for the final time at 6 p.m. Saturday until the new one, near Third Avenue, opens Monday.

Elrod said employees will be working “till the crack of dawn if we have to” to be ready for the opening.

“We’ll be working late into the night for a few nights,” Elrod said Thursday. “We have amazing employees who will really do anything for us.”

Although leaving a long established location evokes sentimental feelings, employees’ buzz over the new store is even greater.

Aaron Syring, who took over ownership of Island Drug from Bill Pulpin in 2004, decided to build a store that would provide a “better customer experience” for its loyal customers.

“Our customers have been good to us,” Syring said.

He said he believes the spacious 10,000-square foot building will provide customers with better access and easier parking, and more privacy for patients during consultations with pharmacists.

Having more visibility in the Oak Harbor community was key to the move, Syring said.

He was reminded of that last week when, despite having lived in the community for about six months, one of the contractors working at the new store asked where the old store was located.

“He still didn’t know where our original location was,” Syring said.

“That’s been one of our struggles.”

The new store also will have wider aisles, a deeper selection of over-the-counter products, an expanded home health section and a naturopathic area. There also is a “Life on Whidbey” section that features products made on the island such as soaps, cards, jerky and jewelry.

But perhaps the showcase feature of the new store will be its cafe that Syring likens to “an old school pharmacy” soda fountain.

The “Apple a Day Cafe,” named by Syring’s wife, Erica, is envisioned as a gathering place for food and conversation just like drug stores from the past.

Vel Docken, manager of the cafe, said the menu will include soups, salads and sandwiches, along with milkshakes, frozen malts, hot fudge sundaes and banana splits. The cafe will be open from 11 a.m. till 3 p.m. from Monday through Friday.

The old store, around since 1964, will offer a “blowout sale” through Saturday on items that won’t carry over to the new store, Zick said.

Longtime customers continue to ask when the new store will open.

“They’re excited about it just as much as we are,” employee Michelle Anderson said.

n Reach Whidbey News-Times’ Ron Newberry at 360-675-6611, ext. 5070


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