Midtown Apothecary Ltd
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Par Cynthia Wandler

A Pharmacy with a Twist

The word “apothecary” can refer to a pharmacy or pharmacist and likely evokes thoughts of chemists and concoctions. St. Albert’s Midtown Apothecary has all of these. Owner and pharmacist Karen Moak opened the store – part pharmacy, part ice-cream shop and wholly old-fashioned – in April of 2015.

When Karen was in school, she and her fellow classmates saw photos of  pharmacies harkening back to a different era – with a soda counter and tall stools, a place where people met to socialize. “When I was in school, I thought ‘If I ever own a pharmacy, this is what I would want it to be like.’” But years later, running the pharmacy in the big box store, Target, her ideals of getting to know customers by name while helping manage their health drifted away. But then Target closed its doors, and Karen thought, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’

A pharmacist scooping ice cream gives us a chance to talk to people on a different level. It’s fun. We like it. - Karen Moak, owner and pharmacist
Midtown Apothecary is a vintage pharmacy with an ice cream shop and candy inside
Owner/pharmacist Karen Moak (left) and pharmacist Jillian Bocking provide health care and a scoop of ice cream at Midtown Apothecary. Photo by Cynthia Wandler

Vintage yet Modern

In downtown St. Albert, Midtown Apothecary hints of times past with its vintage chairs, antiques and old-style radio. The décor is always a work in progress and includes donations from a few people, including a friend of Karen's, one of her customers,and a family member. “I have some old pharmaceutical bottles up there from my mom’s cousin, whose pharmacy closed down about 25 years ago,” she says.

The pharmacy staffs prescribing pharmacists who can accommodate needs such as travel consultations and vaccinations, flu and allergy shots, and treatment for conditions including travellers’ diarrhea, eczema, eye infections and other minor illnesses.

Karen has new customers and previous ones alike. “We wouldn’t have been able to survive without those people who followed us [from Target] so I’m thankful,” she says. “We are a full-service pharmacy first and we wanted to add a fun aspect so we put the ice cream counter in.” The ice cream shop offers numerous cold, sweet treats, as well as jars of candies to choose from for those clutching a quarter or two in hand. And it isn’t just anyone scooping ice cream for customers – it’s the pharmacists or pharmacy students themselves.

Midtown Apothecary acts as both a pharmacy and an old-fashioned ice cream shop and candy store

Connecting with Customers

“We wanted to get back to the basics of providing customer service," says Karen. “We just wanted to be a place where the community can gather and be a part of the neighbourhood and be a part of the community instead of being lost in a big store."

And St. Albert is the perfect fit for helping her realize her dream. “This community is pretty amazing. They support small business,” says Karen. “So they support their own neighbourhood. It’s a city but it’s still small-town and that’s what I like … there’s a real sense of community here. It’s rewarding, this job, knowing your customers. In big stores, you don’t know people.” As her business grows, Karen will always hire enough staff so they will never be too busy to connect with customers. “And the ice cream brings people in and hopefully the next time they need a prescription they’ll think to come here and then we can get to know them,” she says.

Midtown Apothecary is a pharmacy and old-fashioned ice cream shop located in downtown St. Albert
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