Rays of morning sunlight stream through the front windows of Parker’s Pharmacy in Baton Rouge, a new independent pharmacy launched by Louisiana natives and brothers, Orlando and Kyle Palmer. The vibe is bright and cheery as Orlando, a pharmacist, and Kyle, a marketing strategist, begin welcoming customers into the Mid City store. The brothers opened Parker’s Pharmacy in early 2018, and it’s been growing rapidly every month since. Orlando and Kyle each had successful careers in other cities, but moved home to open Parker’s, an independent pharmacy built on personal service.
“This is a value-driven model that, for us, was several years in the making,” says Orlando. “The biggest difference is service. When you come in, you’re treated like a person whose health outcomes really matter.”
Parker’s Pharmacy built a 4100-patient following after just 12 months in business. The Palmer brothers employ a team of eight full-time staff and are in the midst of a major expansion project that includes doubling the size of their flagship location and opening a second location in Baton Rouge on South Sherwood Forest Boulevard. With the need for full-service independent pharmacies in other parts of the Capital Region, they foresee future locations elsewhere in town, including North Baton Rouge, a historically underserved area.
“We know this is an idea whose time has come,” says Kyle. “And we’re really pleased to launch it in Louisiana.”
Come Home to Louisiana
The plan to open an independent pharmacy in Baton Rouge started in 2016 while Orlando was working as a pharmacist in Atlanta and Kyle was working in marketing in Billings, Montana. The two were born and raised in Baton Rouge, but left the area as young men for other opportunities. After graduating from the Xavier University College of Pharmacy in New Orleans, Orlando moved to Atlanta, where he worked for more than a decade in both national chain pharmacies as well as nuclear pharmacies. Kyle landed in Billings after earning an athletic scholarship to play basketball at Montana State University at Billings, and remained there for several years to work in marketing.
A few years ago, the two decided to merge their interests and start a new business that made good business sense while also promoting the social good. To them, there was no better place to do it than back home in Louisiana.
“With our family network here and with the need in the community for a forward-thinking independent pharmacy, it made sense to open in Baton Rouge,” says Kyle. “We were also ready to be close to our parents and extended family and friends.”
Moreover, the Palmers saw opportunity on Florida Boulevard, an area rich in diverse residents that was underserved in health care.
An Early Plan for Growth
With the number of independent pharmacies growing across communities, the Palmer brothers rightly assumed their model would attract robust numbers. Even before it was necessary, they built out a second drop-off window.
“We needed it pretty quickly,” laughs Orlando.
They also identified a second pharmacy location in Baton Rouge at S. Sherwood Forest and Coursey Boulevards. But before breaking ground on this store, they also decided to double the size of the Florida Boulevard store by taking in the adjoining retailer.
“We’re going to do both of these projects at the same time,” says Kyle. “Then we’ll turn to other parts of town.”
The projects should be completed during the second half of 2019.
The community’s response to Parker’s Pharmacy has exceeded their expectations, say the Palmers, but they aren’t completely surprised. After years in the business, Orlando recognizes the power that independent pharmacies have in improving health outcomes. Taking time to advise patients and ensuring they’re following their pharmaceutical protocols can keep them out of the hospital. Independent pharmacies help patients manage chronic conditions, remind them to get their flu vaccines and suggest other healthy practices.
“There’s much more emphasis being placed on everyone in health care now to produce better outcomes for patients,” says Orlando. “In a model like this, we can take time to do that.”
The brothers have lots of ideas for community partnerships and recently started a nonprofit, Parker’s Cares, which helps individuals in need pay for retail items, like pill boxes, thermometers and bathroom scales, which aren’t covered by insurance but that promote positive health.
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