Eleanor Kong learned first hand that starting a small business can push one to their emotional and financial limits. For 20 months her storefront welcomed no customers but rather plenty of high priced contractors to build everything up. Later, more contractors were brought in to tear the previous contractors work down and refurbish the space so it was up to commercial code. At long last, Station Pharmacy is now fully open for business.
Station Pharmacy sparked much curiosity and interest from the community leading up to its eventual opening. Weeks beforehand, signage in the widows displaying “pharmacy” in green lettering left some to believe that a marijuana dispensary had made its way into town. While not the case, Station Pharmacy is still a departure from your standard drugstore.
The most unique aspect of Station Pharmacy is the entire front end of the business is a coffee bar. I have seen plenty of gas station/delis, and a few car wash/taco stands, plus a half dozen Taco Bell/Pizza Huts, but I have never seen a pharmacy/cafe.
The pharmacy seems to be the focal point, but the cafe is not a mere novelty. A high end espresso machine and a good tasting latte showed that the cafe side means business. Coffee, espresso, teas and pastries are all on the menu. Salads, sandwiches, and other healthy offerings are soon to follow. Inside/outside seating and free Wi-Fi are draws too.
In their own version of a coffee house poetry night, Station Pharmacy plans to have scheduled speakers discussing their clinical programs, from diabetes to weight loss, aromatherapy and so on. Conjoining the informational aspect of the pharmacy with the social dynamic of a coffee shop, Station Pharmacy has in some ways created a community center focusing on health and well being.
The whole idea behind this new business was inspired by the old soda fountains/pharmacies of yesteryear. Eleanor lamented that now the job of the pharmacist has been reduced to monotonously counting and pouring prescriptions behind a barrier. As a pharmacist for over 25 years in a hospital and later in a commercial setting, Eleanor has built a solid client base which she attributes to catering to the individual as well as having extensive follow ups with her customers. She saw that people needed some peace of mind to go with their prescriptions.
“Information on pharmaceuticals has flooded the Internet and television and has become overwhelming. The future of pharmacists is to broker that information” Eleanor said.
Brokering information is especially key for the medicinal tea portion of the pharmacy. Walk-ins with headaches, tension, or other ailments can walk out with specifically blended therapeutic tea sans the prescription. Station Pharmacy does offer a more select inventory of prescription drugs, but medicinal teas and eventually medicinal foods will factor into to the grand scheme of things to come.
“We are not writing Western medicine off, or vice versa. There is a synergy between the two” Eleanor explained.
There is no question that starting a new business is a daunting task. Inform the city that food will be served on the premises, and a litany of city codes and subsequent headaches are thrown into the mix as well. Despite the inevitable hiccups of any upstart, Station Pharmacy fits in nicely with the landscape of unique local businesses you can only find here in Santa Monica.
If you go
1821 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, Calif.
Michael can be seen riding around town on his bike burning calories so he can eat more food, or on CityTV hosting his own show, “Tour de Feast.” To reach him visit his website at tourdefeast.net or follow him on Twitter @TourDeFeastSM.