Oak Harbor's Island Drug plans move to Highway 20 location

Island Drug pharmacist Pete Phillips discusses a prescription with Mirah Cuthbertson, a pharmacy assistant. They may be working in a new, state-of-the-art building by the end of the year. - Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times
Island Drug pharmacist Pete Phillips discusses a prescription with Mirah Cuthbertson, a pharmacy assistant. They may be working in a new, state-of-the-art building by the end of the year.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times

One of Oak Harbor’s oldest and most respected businesses will be moving from its longtime home on Pioneer Way to a high-profile spot on Highway 20, if all goes according to plan.

Aaron Syring, the owner of Island Drug, is planning to build a new, 10,000-square-foot pharmacy just north of Island Cafe, not far from a couple of medical clinics on Cabot Drive. The new building will have all the same services the current drug store offers, but a lot more room for parking, cash registers and pills counting.

“We need a little more elbow room,” he said. “The community has really been good to us. A new space will allow us to be more efficient and better serve the community.”

The Oak Harbor City Council approved an amendment to a “concomitant zoning agreement” Tuesday night in order to allow vehicular access to the two lots from Highway 20. The council’s OK was an important step in the permitting process.

Christian Anderson of Dry Lake Land Stewardship, LLC is proposing to construct two buildings totaling 12,744 square feet. The larger of the two buildings will house Island Drug, but the tenant for the smaller one hasn’t been determined. Syring said he expects it will be a medical-related business.

Customers will be able to access the site from both Highway 20 and SE Ely Street. A turn lane will be right next to a small strip mall that currently doesn’t have direct highway access.

Tuesday, Councilwoman Beth Munns expressed concern about the impact the development may have on adjacent homeowners on Ely Street. She pointed out that mixing business and residences caused a lot of problems on Bayshore Drive.

Interim City Administrator Steve Powers replied that the city has landscaping standards and design guidelines to deal with those kinds of issues. The Home Depot, for example, was required to put up a fence and plant trees to shield neighbors on Ely Street. He said city planners will analyze the specific impacts during the permitting process.

Syring reassured all the people who love Island Drug that nothing will be going away in the move. They still will offer specialized packaging of medications to make things simpler for people who take a lot of different drugs. The new building will still offer a drive-up window, a compounding pharmacy, medical supplies, a natural health specialist, JC Penney Express and the popular gift shop.

The new space, Anderson said, will be “state of the art.” Patients will  have more privacy for medical screenings, immunizations and consultations with pharmacy staff. There will be extra cash registers for quicker check-out.

In addition, Syring said, customers will be able to get to and from the pharmacy with greater ease. He said the city’s decision to change a section of Pioneer Way to one-way made it difficult for some people on the east side to get to his store. The store currently has only three nonrestricted parking spaces in front.

“You have to do some gymnastics to get here,” he said, adding that the new spot on the highway is centrally located within the city and will have its own parking lot.

Anderson said he hopes to obtain the permits within a month and to get everything done for an opening before Christmas.


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