By Sid Riley
Forty eight, forty nine, and ….fifty. Usually when you hear someone counting at Paramore’s Pharmacy they are counting out pills for a prescription. However, this week that is not necessarily the case. The counting you hear this week could be Donna, Scott, Willie Earl, and the rest of the staff counting how many candles are on the birthday cake they purchased in honor of the fiftieth birthday of their business.
It all started on May 1, 1958, when Willie Earl Paramore took a leap of faith. As a young pharmacist working with Hightower Drug Store in downtown Marianna, he had the opportunity to purchase Davis Pharmacy which was located a block away, next to the present Hinson Insurance Agency. Mr. R.L. Hinson, Sr. thus became Willie Earl’s first landlord. In those days, no one signed a lease, your word was what counted. At that point Willie Earl and his wife Corrie began the American Dream…becoming a business owner.
He hired Thelma Pilcher (Carlton) as his cashier and first employee. On the first day he filled one prescription for $1.25! Mrs. Syble Mount was his first customer and remains a loyal customer to this day! The first month they filled a total of 284 prescriptions, a figure they now match in a few hours of operation.
After a year in downtown Marianna, he decided to move to a building (which is now Heart by Heart) beside the doctor’s office of Dr. Gene McQuagge, on Fifth Street. Many thought he would never make it moving away from downtown. Shortly after the move, Dr. Richard and Sarah Shultz completed their office nearby. Maybe he wasn’t doomed after all! Jackson Hospital was located where the present Marianna Retirement Center is and soon the doctors began building and moving their offices into the area. Business began to grow.
One day a local doctor came to Willie Earl with a perplexing problem. He told Willie Earl that he had a patient who had continual, severe nausea that would not go away even though he had prescribed numerous remedies. He asked if Willie Earl had any ideas about a course of treatment. Willie Earl smiled and told him that the fellow apparently had a drinking problem that angered his wife. “She has been coming in here every two weeks and buying a bottle of Ipecac (which causes severe nausea), and I suspect she has been putting it in his whiskey”. The case was solved.
Willie Earl and Corrie Paramore built their home in the block behind the store…he could walk through their neighbor, Bill and Ann Bell’s yard to work. (Energy conservation was important back then!) As soon as their son Scott was about 9 years old, he would work at the store after school filling the coke machine and sweeping the store. This started a long tradition of employing family members…the joke in the family was that if you could hold a broom or even add and subtract, you started to work! Their son John Paramore and daughter Leigh followed the family tradition.
The business continued to grow, and Willie Earl hired his brother Gene to work with him. He hired him on Monday and Graham Air Force Base closed on Thursday. This was a huge blow to the community and both were concerned for their future. The business volume held steady and finally again began to grow. Gene would eventually open his own drug store.
Through the years, several other pharmacists had the privilege of working at Paramore’s Pharmacy, Jimmy Mullins and Ellis Syfrett and Janet Moneyham Booth.
In 1970, Earl and Corrie’s son, Scott (a pharmacy student at Auburn University) married Donna Mitchell. Both Donna and Scott would come home on the weekends and in the summer to work at the drug store. When they both graduated in 1973, Scott came to work full time as a pharmacist with his dad. Except for a short time in 1974, Scott has been employed as a pharmacist with Paramore’s Pharmacy.
In 1985, Scott officially bought the business from his father but both continued to work together until 1991 when Earl unofficially retired. The present store was constructed in 1987 and had the first drive-through window in the area. The store began to also carry various gift items for the convenience of their customers. Kathryn Mayo, who recently retired after working for 37 years, ran the front of the store and was known through the community for her beautiful gift displays. Since that time, the gift area has grown. When Kathryn retired in 2004, Donna Paramore retired from the Jackson County School Board and took over business as manager of the business.
Following in the family tradition, Scott and Donna’s two children also began working in the store sweeping, delivering and whatever dad (the BOSS) asked….But after long deliberation, son Jeff decided to become an electrical engineer and is presently living in Suwanne, Ga. with his wife, Fabiana, and two daughters, Stephanie and Isabella. Susan Paramore Compton became a physician and is working with Bay Nephrology Associates in Panama City, Fl. She lives in Lynn Haven with her husband, Jay and son, Sam.
It is hard to count the many local young people whose first job was at Paramore’s Pharmacy. They have gone on to be successful in many areas. Some are pharmacists, doctors, physical therapists, engineers, educators….and the list goes on and on. It is very rewarding to the Paramore family to know they have positively impacted the lives of many of them.
Changes through the Years
When the pharmacy began, each prescription was filled or compounded by the pharmacist. A slide rule was used to calculate the price of the prescription. Everyday, an employee would take an Rx and type it on a family record and it was filed away.
Today with the technology that is available, Paramore’s Pharmacy has the only robotic filling machine (lovingly named Willie Earl) in the area. This machine houses many of the medications that are the most frequently prescribed. Willie Earl the robot can quickly count and fill the bottles, thus allowing the pharmacists and pharmacy techs to input and fill other prescriptions simultaneously. This allows their customers to get their prescriptions filled quickly and accurately without the long delays encountered in some of the chain stores.
Paramore’s computer system stores important information and allows the pharmacist to know immediately if a medication might interact negatively with another they are taking. Patients receive a printout of information on every medication they are taking…how things have changed! Computers have become a necessity because every Rx is imputed, sent to the insurance company and then the pharmacist is told what the company will pay them and how much the customer is to pay…no more slide rules and calculators.
Recently, a new service has been added, a 24-hour re-fill system. Paramore’s Pharmacy is also one of the few certified compounding pharmacies in the area. Presently, Theresa McKeithan and Scott Paramore are the full-time pharmacists and Anne Canada is working part- time. The store has grown from one pharmacist and one cashier in 1958 to fourteen employees in 2008. Kathryn Mayo, who started working at the pharmacy in 1968 accumulated thirty seven years as a wonderful employee.
Celebration Time !
Scott and Donna Paramore along with Willie Earl and Corrie Paramore would like to thank this community for their wonderful, loyal support through the years. We could not have survived without the wonderful people of Marianna and Jackson County.
Today, Thursday, November 6, 2008…we will begin a two-day celebration of our 50 years in business with and Open House. We are inviting our loyal customers and the community to come by and browse the store, talk with the Paramore family, have refreshments…maybe even find something special you might want for the upcoming holidays.
We are also extending a special invitation to any past employees to come by Friday afternoon from 4-6 p.m. for a special reunion.