But Randy Turner, owner of Turner Pharmacy on Dixie Street, doesn’t mind if sometimes people call his store by another name. He is proud to have inherited the legacy of a business that has only had three owners in the past 75-odd years; a drug store that has remained stoutly independent, thriving in an era of big chain stores.
This July will mark 25 years Turner has owned the pharmacy which has stood on the same spot for 44 years. It is one of the last remaining locally owned drug stores clustered around Tanner Medical Center, and it has been kept going by a loyal community.
“I think that Carrollton’s a good town for supporting independents,” said Turner. “I think a lot of people just want to do business with us.”
One reason has to do with the personality of the store.
“You’ve got the same people here every day,” Turner said. “People come in and see the same faces every time. That’s not always the case at other places.”
These days, pharmacies like Turner’s have the cards stacked against them. In an age of complex and expensive pharmaceuticals, chain drug stores have an enormous advantage in buying power, not to mention access to national advertising. Still, the National Community Pharmacists Association says community pharmacists continue to dispense about 40 percent of all retail prescriptions across the country, especially in towns like Carrollton. And independent pharmacists are often rated highest in consumer satisfaction.
Turner Pharmacy began life long ago as Jones Drug Co. An old photograph, found on the Digital Library of Georgia website, shows the store during the late 1940s on Adamson Square, in what is now the West Georgia Technical College headquarters. In 1959, the store’s owner, Charlie Jones, sold the pharmacy to Don Bohanon.
Bohanon was a local legend. In 1957, he was a young man just out of pharmacy school and working at Berry’s Pharmacy in Villa Rica. On the morning of Dec. 5 of that year, he was inside the store when a tremendous natural gas explosion leveled not only that building, but much of the city block surrounding it. Bohanon picked himself out of the rubble to find that 12 people had been killed and more than 20 others, including himself, had been injured by the blast.
Bohanon operated his pharmacy from at least a couple of locations around town, including the 400 block of Newnan Street, before settling in at a residential building at what is now 821 Dixie St., just a short distance from the hospital and near several doctors’ offices. In 1969, it was the prime spot for a pharmacy – and it still is today.
Turner came along in 1988, just as Bohanon was thinking about retiring.
“I was born and raised in Carrollton,” Turner said. “My daddy retired from Southwire; my mother taught school (at Carrollton Public School) on College Street. I used to work at Lovvorn Pharmacy in Bremen for my father-in-law while I was going to school. When I got out, I heard this store was for sale.”
Turner graduated in May of 1988 and bought Bohanon’s Pharmacy the following July. He kept the name for the first couple of years before naming it for himself. Other than that, not much has changed at the store.
Inside, the cash register and scales Bohanon used are on display, along with dozens of antique medicine bottles on shelves behind the prescription counter. Also on display is a small model of the building, which Turner jokes is better looking than the real thing. The soda fountain that used to be a feature of Bohanon’s and other drug stores is a thing of the past, but Turner still sells a variety of non-pharmacy related items, along with the usual ointments, eye and tooth care products, pain killers and bandages.
Behind the counter, Turner’s small staff of loyal employees is kept busy throughout the day filling orders. Keeping track of what is being prescribed for their customers is a big part of the pharmacy’s job, and Turner says the store uses a combination of computers and personal knowledge of their customers to ensure the right drug is sold in the right amount, with no danger of interaction from other medications.
“When I first bought this store, there were nine independent pharmacies in Carrollton. Now we’ve got three … What’s happened, with insurance paying for drugs, the fees they pay us has gotten lower and lower.”
Such economic pressure, along with the competition from large stores, has made it difficult for many local, independent drug stores to avoid selling out. But Turner is resisting that trend, hopeful that there will be a revival of local drug stores. After all, every drug store sells the same kinds of pharmaceuticals, but not all can match the level of personal service that he can provide.
Turner has no plans to quit anytime soon; in fact, he hopes that the store will continue on, just as it has done these many decades, albeit under different names.
“When I first bought this store … I wondered if I did the right thing. But it paid off in the long run. I’m glad I did it. You work hard, work a lot – but that’s part of it.”