Lane’s Pharmacy – a history of service

Published 11:38 am Monday, October 27, 2008

Lane’s Pharmacy was busier than usual Wednesday as customers who learned the business would be closing at the end of the day called and came in wanting to know what would happen to their prescriptions and insurance information.

Many also came in to tell pharmacist and owner Richard Smith and the staff how much they will miss them and to say thank you for all the years of service.

Smith’s standard reply was, “You can just come on down the street and find me.”

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He is assuring his customers that he will be employed as one of the pharmacists at CVS, and that all their records—insurance and prescriptions—will be available there.

Smith said of his sale of the business and future employment with CVS, “I feel I have partnered with a good company at CVS. From the pharmacist position on up the chain of command, the company is run by pharmacists.”

Smith has been working in the little pharmacy at Five Points Corners since he first went to work for John Lane in 1972. At that time it was located in the other half of the building, which was much smaller. Smith recalls Lane carried so much product, including a nice line of cosmetics, that there wasn’t room to display it. You had to know where to find it in the store room.

Lane and his wife had run the mom and pop pharmacy at that location since the early 1960s. Smith said back then it was at the end of the town. From there on it was just woods, recalls long-term employee Virginia Collins. She has worked for Smith for about 17 years.

Smith purchased the business from Lane in 1974, and when he first went into business, the pharmacy opened daily at 8 a.m. and closed at 7 p.m., remaining open all day on Saturdays. They made home deliveries—a practice that has continued to this day.

There were no computers, no fax machines or cell phones back then. Smith said he still has the original manual typewriter. He recalls purchasing a four-function calculator for $99 on sale, considered to be a bargain. He still uses it.

The biggest change he has seen over the years is in what he referred to as “the health triangle”—defined by the doctor, patient and pharmacist. “It used to be a lot simpler. People had their own insurance plans and they took care of it. Now there are too many intermediary people involved in the delivery of medicine. I feel a lot of times the patient gets left in the shuffle. The insurance intermediaries pretty much call the shots.”

Over the years many a young person found employment at Lane’s while they were in school. Smith recalls Oscar Jackson Jr., Tommy and Clayton Penhallegon Jr. all worked for him while they were in high school as delivery boys.

“We had a ‘66 Ford six-cylinder, straight-stick pickup truck we used for deliveries. So many of those boys didn’t even know how to drive a stick shift when they began. They shifted so often that the gear shift came off and had to be pinned back on,” he recalls. “That truck went through a lot of boys.”

Smith is finding a lot of memorabilia in the store as they clean and prepare to move out. “We lifted a shelf and found a note taped to the bottom that said this shelf was cleaned by one of the Penhallegon boys, and gave the date.” He also still has the city map on the wall that was used 30 years ago for making deliveries.

He considers himself very fortunate and blessed to have known so many people and share their feelings and their pain through the years. You hear their problems and we always strived to have a positive effect on people. It has been a real trip to have met families when I first started, to see their children grow up, and now we are seeing their children,” he recalls.

The pharmacist is often called upon to interpret medical treatment for their customers.

Smith recalls one rather unusual event when Miller Hydro, now Lynch Machines, had a crew of people working in China putting a machine together. One of the crew members got sick and went to a Chinese doctor. Smith said he was so surprised to receive a cell phone call from the men in China. “They were telling me what the doctor wanted to do and asked me what I thought about it.”

“I have some great memories of my days at Lane’s,” he said, then adds, “It’s not over. I’m just up the street to continue to serve my customers.”

Carolyn Iamon can be reached by e-mail at or telephone at (229) 246-2827, Ext. 134.