Christopher Riccio remembers the now closed Cornwells Pharmacy at Route 13 and Cornwells Avenue. In the summers, Riccio used to accompany his dad, a drug sales representative, to Cornwells and other local pharmacies.
“I’ve been around pharmacy my whole life,” said Riccio.
While locally-owned mom-and-pop pharmacies like Cornwells Pharmacy might have seemed to slowly disappear, Riccio recently opened the Riccio Family Pharmacy a few blocks away from the Cornwells Pharmacy site.
The Holy Ghost Prep graduate and Bensalem resident’s pharmacy is located at 2217 Bristol Pike, Suite 2. At less than 900 square feet, it’s a small pharmacy focused on prescriptions, over-the-counter healthcare needs, and a small selection of sodas and snacks.
“I always wanted to open my own pharmacy,” said Riccio.
The pharmacy, which officially opened April 4, became a reality in Riccio’s mind in August 2010.
“Once I found this location, I said ‘this is what I am doing,’” said Riccio.
Prior to finding a location for his own pharmacy, Riccio worked as a pharmacist at a big box pharmacy chain and mail-order pharmacy. The decision to leave big business behind didn’t come lightly to Riccio.
“I had a job that guaranteed income,” said Riccio.
But it wasn’t fulfilling for the pharmacist who recalled visiting many locally-owned pharmacies in his youth.
“I needed to find my next step,” said Riccio, “I would sit there at my desk at work and think ‘can I do this?’”
Thoughts of the recession and his wife and two sons were in Riccio’s mind as he contemplated opening his own pharmacy.
“I needed to do something more. I needed the challenge,” said Riccio.
After fining the location, Riccio spent the next year working on building his business plans and working on the required licensing to open a pharmacy. In January, Riccio’s mail-order pharmaceutical employer laid off some employees. Riccio, who volunteered to be laid off, called the layoffs a blessing in disguise for him.
“It freed me up because there was so much that needed to be done here,” he said.
From his layoff in January to opening his pharmacy in April, Riccio worked on opening his own pharmacy.
“I was probably working 10 hour days from the day I got laid off to the day we opened,” Riccio said.
As the Riccio Family Pharmacy grows, Riccio remains cautiously optimistic.
“It’s scary, but the signs so far are very positive,” he said.
Riccio said he has a new customer just about every day.
“The biggest thing with any business is getting your name out there,” said Riccio.
Sometimes, the wrong people learn about a new pharmacy opening.
“We were burglarized by week five,” said Riccio.
He described the robbers as professionals who came in at night and managed to disable the security system and target specific drugs on his shelves.
“It was pretty crushing to the morale,” said Riccio of the discovery that is store was robbed.
The positive side, he said, is that no one was hurt since the crime took place at night. Riccio is adding additional features to his security system as a result of the robbery.
Riccio is focusing on building a customer base, and building loyalty with those customers. The pharmacist said he wanted to create a pharmacy were people could consult with him about medication, side effects, interactions and other questions customers might have about medications.
“I just try to be available for them,” he said of his customers.
Business comes in an ebb and flow now. There are slow hours with little to do, but then several hours will fly by as Riccio fills prescription after prescription.
“Hopefully, it gets to the point where it is like that all day long,” Riccio said of the latter.