Howard’s Rexall closing; business sold to Rite Aid

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FARMINGTON – Howard’s Liggett Rexall Drugs, the last independently-owned pharmacy in Franklin County, is closing. Rite Aid, which is opening a new store just a few blocks south on Sept. 18, bought Howard’s pharmacy business. Howard’s last day of business is Sept. 22.

Pharmacists and brothers Rob and Jim Witt, IV, took over ownership of the Howard’s store and pharmacy on Main Street from their father in 1978. The location was home to a succession of pharmacies over many years, and the business has a legacy that stretches back 200 years, as one of the first pharmacies to open in Farmington. The Witts have both accepted pharmacist jobs at the new Rite Aid and their subscriptions will follow them, Jim Witt said today. It will be ultimately up to customers if they want to have their prescriptions filled at Rite Aid.

“We hope customers do stay with us,” Witt said.

Three buildings, which house Howard’s, Sun Journal, Affordable Mortgage, Verizon Wireless and six apartments, is currently under contract with Foothills Management company, said owner Bill Marceau of Farmington. Barring any contingency hurdles, a closing sales agreement is expected by the middle of October, Marceau said.

In addition to the half block of buildings, nearly a third of the so-called municipal parking lot belongs to the property. Marceau said surveys being conducted now will determine the exact lines of the property and the question of what happens next will come up in terms of negotiation with the town of Farmington.

As for new business coming in where the 7,000 square-foot space Howard’s occupied, Marceau said he is talking with an undisclosed food retailer as one possibility.

Customer Katheryn Sytsma, of Farmington, asks Howard’s Rexall pharmacist Jim Witt, IV, for his advice.

For the Witts, closing their pharmacy and going with chain giant Rite Aid will make life much easier all around, said Jim Witt. Among the major reasons is that reimbursements, both state and federal, are slow in coming or have been greatly reduced on generic drugs. That has made it impossible for the Witts to stay in business, as with all the other independent pharmacies that have closed over the last years.

“It will be easier on us,” Jim Witt said. “We can see light at the end of the tunnel.” The Witts, at one point, took out loans to cover the federal’s nonpayment of Medicaid’s months long delay of reimbursement payments.

“They’ll be no more worrying about our building,” Witt said.

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