About a month passed after I first broke the word that downtown would soon have a pharmacy when I got a Facebook message from a person identifying himself as the pharmacist who would be the face of the Phoenix Pharmacy and Fountain. Charlie Southerland expressed excitement at the coming chapter in his life and we agreed to meet for coffee at the Downtown Grind, just outside the pending pharmacy.
One of the first beautiful days of spring, we sat outside sipping our coffee and talked about what has brought Charlie to this place at this time. We talked about the changes which have come about downtown in recent years and the various stages of his career. Friendly and open, engaging and eager, I enjoyed being among the first of us to get to know him.
Born and raised in Morristown, he graduated from Morristown East High School in 1997 before completing the pre-professional program at Walters State Community College. He then attained his pharmacy degree through the Samford Pharmacy School in Birmingham. One interesting twist to his time there had him working during his fourth year on a Blackfoot Indian reservation in the northwest.
Most of his career has been with Walmart. He started fresh out of pharmacy school with Walmart in Rogersville. He moved next to Greenville and then was promoted to Pharmacy Manager at the Halls Walmart. While there he also worked at an independent pharmacy back in his hometown of Morristown. He just completed six years at the Walmart Pharmacy at East Town Mall.
Through it all, he had an interest in opening a small, independent pharmacy. Meanwhile, of course, Ron Sherill had his eye on an independent pharmacy located downtown. The independent pharmacist Charlie had worked with in Morristown is friends with Dr. Sherrill and an introduction got Charlie and Ron together.
The two realized they had similar visions of an old-fashioned pharmacy – not simply with a soda fountain, but more importantly with a pharmacist who knows your name, knows the medications you are taking and will help take care of you in a way that less-personalized pharmacies are ill-equipped to do. Oddly the throw-back idea is consistent with current thinking in the medical profession, which places a higher premium on a clinical role for a pharmacist.
They began planning the concept a year ago and with the opening at the Phoenix Building the pieces began to fall into place. Each of the components they felt to be essential could be accommodated in the space, including space for an urgent care center.
Ron will be primarily upstairs in the offices, remaining behind the scenes as will another pharmacist, Pam Howerton. But Charlie’s the one you’ll see and get to know. He calls pharmacy “a great profession,” adding that he loves what he does. He said, “I’d rather no one have to take medicine, but if you do, I want to help make sure it is just what you need.” Like their Facebook Page and watch for mention of a blog wherein Charlie will track the progress of the business.