Ready to take next step

By Laura Briggs

As one door closes, another opens for Shepparton business couple John and Agata Anderson.

News reporter Laura Briggs talks to the couple whose name has been synonymous with family pharmacy for nearly four decades, as they approach retirement.

‘‘We were young and energetic when we came here and we’re young and energetic when we’re leaving.’’

This is how Agata Anderson summed up 39 years in business with her husband John.

Following decades of success as owners of John Anderson Pharmacy, one chapter ends and another starts as the pair sells and life quietens down.

In the beginning

The journey started in 1979 when the newly-married Kyabram couple grabbed the chance to pursue a passion and buy a pharmacy in Wyndham St, Shepparton.

With silent business partner Darcy Brennan, who had confidence in the young couple to develop a successful business, Anderson and Brennan was born.

‘‘We came here having scraped up enough money to buy both a small house and the pharmacy,’’ Mr Anderson said.

After buying the business on September 10, 1979, it was only a matter of months before the couple welcomed their first child, Elizabeth, on November 15.

‘‘The baby came to work right from the start,’’ Mr Anderson said.

‘‘She started out in her carry basket, graduated to a bouncer, then a pram, until eventually she got to the point where she squawked and didn’t sleep often enough.’’

The pharmacy's original narrow shop front in 1991.

Branching out

Three years after taking on the business, Mr and Mrs Anderson found themselves in a position to buy out Mr Brennan, taking full ownership of the pharmacy.

At the time, the pharmacy was renamed as John Anderson Pharmacy, Amcal as it is known today.

Mr Anderson said looking back at their years as business owners, the pair could not be happier with their time in the role and the part their business has played in the lives of generations of local families.

As the sole pharmacist, Mr Anderson’s role entailed building rapport with customers and providing them with knowledge and information on various medications and products within the store.

While Mrs Anderson also built customer relationships that often had her caught up in conversations which had turned to ‘‘deep-and-meaningfuls’’, her role involved more of a focus on the store’s presentation.

More than a number

With different skill sets and somewhat opposite personalities, the Andersons were able to complement each other and proved to be quite a team.

Mr Anderson was delighted to have watched the generations of families flow through the pharmacy doors.

He said although his main role was to dispense medication, he and his wife became far more involved in the lives of customers — not knowing them only by their script number but knowing them by name.

Mrs Anderson said they had been honoured to share in the excitement with those expecting their first child, to the flip side, where they grieved with those who lost loved ones.

And it is this effort and individual treatment that has kept the customers coming and the business ticking for 39 years.

But it is not just the customers who have been pleased by the Shepparton business owners.

The pharmacy shop front in 1996 after it expanded, more than doubling in width.

Dream run

The pharmacy’s front-of-store counter manager Teresa Pulvirenti said her five years working with the couple had been an absolute blessing.

Having worked on a full-time basis with Mr Anderson for the past five years, Ms Pulvirenti said she could not have had a better boss.

‘‘John is a gem. He’s the most gentle, calm person — I could say boss — but he’s not just a boss,’’ she said.

‘‘He talks and makes everyone feel that they’re the most important thing, including us staff.’’

Ms Pulvirenti said although she was sad to know the end of an era was nearing, she had respect for the couple and the way they ran their business and looked after the pharmacy family.

Mr Anderson said his business was only able to run so successfully because of the dedicated staff he had on board throughout the decades.

‘‘We’ve had a dream run with staff,’’ he said.

Mr Anderson said with many staff members staying for stints as long as 21 years, he had enjoyed giving young people the opportunity to learn and grow in their career, including their youngest daughter Bridget, who has followed in the footsteps of her parents and has been working at the pharmacy for a number of years.

The couple will hand over the pharmacy to new owners on October 29, but Mr Anderson will continue working on a part-time basis for 12 months as part of a transition period.

He said following that he would retire with his wife.

Mr Anderson said he looked forward to spending more time with his nine — soon to be 10 — grandchildren and being involved in more volunteer work in the local community.