I-Care Pharmacy boosts Fort Fairfield

17 years ago
By Kathy McCarty
Staff Writer

    FORT FAIRFIELD – Town, Aroostook County and state officials were on hand July 20 to help I-Care owners Jerry Tanner and Terry Greenier celebrate the official opening of the business with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, welcoming the company and the jobs it’s created for the community.
ImageStaff photo/Kathy McCarty
    A RIBBON-CUTTING ceremony marked the official opening of I-Care Pharmacy in Fort Fairfield on July 20, with dozens on hand to mark the occasion. Present for the event, from left, are: Joe Cassidy and his son, Ethan; Linda DeMerchant; Rick Nadeau; Tim Conant; Shawn Murchison, executive director of the Fort Fairfield Chamber of Commerce; Emily Weissman; Heather Cassidy; Alan Weissman; Lori Weissman; Janet McGillan; Jerry Tanner, co-owner; Mitch Butler; Rep. Nancy Smith, D-Monmouth; Congressman Michael Michaud, D-Maine; Town Manager Dan Foster; Steve St. Pierre; Terry Greenier, co-owner; Walt Elish, president of Aroostook Partnership for Progress; Stev Rogeski; Speaker of the House Glenn Cummings; Rep. Richard Cleary, D-Houlton; Fort Fairfield Town Councilman Ruel Flannery; Kate Barnes; Janelle Cote; Dave McCrea; Wendy Wasson; and Sue Fitzherbert. Absent from the photo were staff members: Carrie Rideout, Erin McShea, Helen McShea, Stephanie Hill and Robin Davenport.
    The project is being considered one of the fastest developments of a new business, with the transformation of Fort Fairfield’s old firehouse into a state-of-the-art facility taking approximately a month.
“We went from a vacant firehouse to a pharmacy service in about 30 days,” said Tanner. “We had been looking at doing something like this in Maine but when the PinRX deal came about, we speeded up the process.”
    Anyone who’s visited the structure when it was a firehouse may not recognize the interior, now that renovations are complete.
    “We’re planning on keeping the fire station look to the exterior, but the inside is totally remodeled, with top-of-the-line security equipment in place,” said Tanner.
Security is of utmost importance for the company, since so many medications are on hand, including narcotics.
    “We have a narcotics room that’s locked at all times. We also have alarms on all the doors and security badges are required to be used to leave or enter the building,” said Greenier.
Surveillance cameras are also strategically placed around the building.
    “We have about three dozen cameras in place, to ensure safety at all times,” said Tanner. “We have sight and sound alarms, panic buttons – all tied to the local fire and police departments. We have cameras inside and out that are monitored 24/7.”
    Unlike most pharmacies that require a person to drop off and pick up prescriptions, I-Care customers’ orders are handled by phone, with prescriptions being mailed directly to the individual.
    “Prescriptions are packaged and separated for distribution at postal centers throughout Maine. Prescriptions are handled on one floor, while our call center is located on another,” said Greenier.
    Tanner said the business is capable of filling up to a 90-day prescription, saving customers money in the long run, compared to other pharmacies.
    “Instead of filling prescriptions every 30 days, our customers can get up to a 90-day supply of their medications, reducing the number of co-pays. For example, if someone used to fill a prescription every 30 days, that’s 12 co-pays a year. Through us, that number is reduced to four co-pays annually,” said Tanner.
Currently, I-Care handles primarily Maine customers but has the ability to expand to other states as demand for the service increases.
    “We just landed the state employee contract for Anthem. We’re dealing with MaineCare. We have about a 72-hour turnaround. Everything is completed and tracked electronically,” said Tanner.
Getting the building in shape for a distribution center was a costly venture but one the two men are proud to be a part of.
    “Renovation to the building ran around $350,000,” said Greenier. “It was expensive but created much-needed jobs.”
    “We didn’t have the luxury of time. We had 30 days to turn the building around from a firehouse to a distribution center. But look what we’ve done. We’ve taken a structurally sound building and made it useful again. We could have spent more on a new building, but we chose to save an old one – give it new life and, in turn, breath life into the downtown,” said Tanner.
    And that’s exactly what’s happening with the opening of I-Care. Businesses are seeing an increase in traffic, thanks to the pharmacy’s staff.
    “It’s the trickle effect, creating jobs for local businesses. Our employees are eating lunch here in town, increasing business for the local stores. The post office has had to add one person to their staff to handle the added mail when we send out packages – over 300 a week mailed out,” said Tanner.
    Shawn Murchison, executive director of the Fort Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, said the business was a welcome addition to the heart of town.
    “Thank you to Jerry and Terry for believing in our hometown. What they do here is absolutely amazing,” said Murchison.
    The business currently employs 16 people but Tanner said he hoped to increase that number to 40 by sometime next year.
    “This is only phase one. We’re now working on phase two, which will be revealed at a later date,” said Tanner.
    Tanner and Greenier have also been discussing the possibility of being a collection site for unwanted medications.
    “We have a room for damaged/outdated medications to be stored in. The state has been asking us to consider being a collection point for such. That’s something we may consider at some point in the future,” said Greenier.
    When asked why start a business in Fort Fairfield, when I-Care has roots in Alaska, Greenier said it came down to the lifestyle.
    “Life in Alaska is becoming too busy. It was fun for a while in Anchorage, but it was time to come home,” said Greenier, who’s originally from the Fort Fairfield area.
    State officials were on hand for the festivities, in part due to the annual Potato Blossom Festival that same week. Several expressed approval of the business and what it brings to Aroostook County.
    “This is an impressive addition to the state, one that creates jobs and provides a much-needed service,” said Congressman Michael Michaud, (D-Maine).
    “I-Care has added jobs for County residents. That’s a good thing,” said Rep. Jeremy Fischer, of Presque Isle.
    “What they’ve done here – they’ve brought life back to downtown,” said Rep. Richard Cleary, of Houlton.
    Nancy Smith, chair of the Business Research and Economic Development Committee, comes from a rural background and acknowledge the importance of creating quality jobs.
    “You need good jobs to keep families in communities like this,” said Smith, noting that strengthening the economy would, in turn, not only keep families from moving but would be an incentive for others to move to the area.
    Tanner agreed, referring back to the added work load at local stores.
    “The local market has had to increase its lunch specials but has seen an increase in revenue from our staff buying lunches locally. It’s the domino effect. It’s a positive thing – a good problem to have. Everyone in Fort Fairfield is happy to have us here,” said Greenier.
    For more information on I-Care and how to order prescriptions, visit www.i-carepharmacy.com, call 888-422-7319 or FAX 877-422-7319.