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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Local pharmacy finds niche

Monday, August 25, 2003

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second in a series of stories about locally owned and operated businesses in Brazil. If you have a suggestion for a store that should be covered in the series, please contact Evan Wade at The Times or by e-mail.

The place for the family-owned drugstore in American business may have diminished over the past few years, but don't tell Lynn Hostetler that.

Hostetler, owner of Lynn's Pharmacy, located on National Avenue, has been at it for years and hopes to be doing the same thing far down the road. Since 1970, Hostetler has served the community with his pharmacy/soda shop and does not seem a bit phased by big business coming into town.

"It's impossible for a small business to compete with a large competitor (like CVS) head-on," he said. "You have to find a niche, something you can beat them at. Service is ours. It's an old cliché -- take care of people and they will take care of you."

"It's difficult to change to keep up," he continued. "You can't compete in the same arena with big places like that."

The pharmacy, which was originally across the street from its original location, has contained many businesses, including a barber shop. Four years after moving into the original building, First Bank and Trust, the leaseholder, gave him an offer he couldn't refuse:

"They told me that they wouldn't renew the lease the next year, but they wouldn't charge me for the rest of it if I moved out when they asked me," he said. "They were very nice about it, very civil, but they made it clear that they wanted the building I was in."

Luckily, a building was available right across the street, and Hostetler expanded into it and remodeled it in December of 1974.

Years later, the shoe store beside their building closed down and they moved in, remodeling it as well and making it a new shoe store. His wife, Donna, ran the store until they closed it and turned the building into an office. Finally, they installed a fountain in the early 1980s and made it what it is today, a soda shop.

Though his niche may be service, Hostetler has another coup by way of his soda shop. A nostalgic throwback to drug stores of days past, the shop serves sandwiches, flavored sodas, and ice cream. They additionally serve soup in the winter.

"This isn't the Vanilla Coke you get from a bottling plant," Hostetler said with a smile, referring to one of the beverages served in the shop.

"It's never too slow here," Mary Bemis, an employee, said. "People like to come here and have lunch, and there are always regulars. I'm on a first-name basis with a lot of customers."

Bemis, who has worked at Hostetler's for three years, says that even the winter doesn't phase customers because of the hot soup they serve.

Hostetler said that he has wanted to be a pharmacist for nearly as long as he can remember.

"I wanted to be a 'drug store man' as early as when I was 8 or 10," he said. "The pharmacist seemed to be distinguished professionally, well-liked by all, and he had all the ice cream and Coke in the world.

"For a kid that lived on the farm and got to town maybe once a week, that was a pretty big deal."

The "farm kid from Clay City" now employs approximately 25 full-and-part-time workers, not to mention his family. His son, Robert, and wife do most of the banking and bookkeeping, while daughter Suzanne Close works in the store. She had previously worked at CVS and Walgreens before coming on board at Lynn's.

There are some disadvantages, though, he says. There is a lot of responsibility involved and diligence is required to run one's own business.

"The biggest problem I see is the fact that I have to wear many hats," he said. "I wear the planning hat, the insurance hat, building management, maintenance, public relations... you get the idea. My wife and I do whatever's needed... ordering and maintaining things, working the fountains...

"You're really in charge of your own destiny, to an extent. Good and bad decisions you have to live with, whereas when you work for someone, you have to live with their decisions."

The responsibilities can be a plus, too, he says.

"You're on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Hostetler said. "Responsibility for everything, good and bad, is yours. Fortunately, I've had lots of good."

Things are good, though, and Hostetler is happy.

"It's been a fun 30-plus years, most days I'd rather be working than anything else," he said. "Life is enjoyable when you enjoy what you're doing, and I certainly do."

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