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As a “people person,” Gary Hamm wanted to be a part of a hometown pharmacy to interact with customers. That goal became a reality in 1998 when Hamm opened ApotheCARE Pharmacy in Elizabethtown.
He worked in several area drug stores but always knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur.
When a group of doctors approached him about opening a pharmacy in a medical building, he thought it was the right time.
“I went out on a limb and opened this pharmacy,” he said, sitting in his office at his first pharmacy in a health care center on Woodland Drive in Elizabethtown.
His wife Janice said when he wanted to open his first pharmacy many people told him it was a bad idea because of the already existing pharmacies and chains in the area. But he went for it and soon the store was busting at the seams, she said.
The Hamms opened a second location behind Hardin Memorial Hospital on Woodland Drive and then one in Radcliff and Vine Grove.
When they opened the two stores in the northern part of the county, Janice said Gary would come home and tell her it was like a school reunion to work in those stores because he went to high school at North Hardin.
It’s been a lot of hard work, but owning his own business fits in well with his personality, he said.
He likes to take risks and do things his own way. And he likes that he can be more customer-focused.
While Hamm knew what he needed to know to be a pharmacist, he admitted he didn’t know business as well as he thought he did.
“I really didn’t have any idea what I was getting into,” he said.
He suggests anyone who wants to go into business for themselves to do some research or take a class before starting. Hamm went to the local office of the Small Business Administration and received some good information to help develop a business plan.
“I’ve learned as much about business since I’ve been in business that I learned about pharmacy in pharmacy school,” he said.
He had to learn about employee regulations, for example, and pharmacy elements he needed to know as a businessman that he didn’t know about when he was employed as a pharmacist.
“There are a lot of things that go behind the scenes in pharmacy that I wasn’t aware of,” Hamm said.
These are things about contracts, rebates and other items a drug store owner needs to know.
He always liked being politically active but over the years he found out if you are in pharmacy you have to be involved in politics because of all the issues being regulated by government agencies.
Business and medicine always are changing and he has to be prepared for all the changes that come.
“If you’re in business you have to be think-skinned, be willing to change, not set in your ways and be looking to the future,” Hamm said.
Medicines constantly change, he said. Some are no longer used and many new ones have developed during his years of pharmacy. Being able to adapt to all the new things is key, he said.
“When I first got out of school we used typewriters, now they’re using robots,” he said.
Also, pharmacists have become involved in preventative health, adminstering vaccines such as flu shots.
While opening his own business had its challenges in the beginning, Hamm said it’s all been worth it to interact with the customers in his pharmacy.
His niece told him he likes to “chit-chat,” he said.
Janice said the word that describes him most is “compassionate.” He looks out for the customers who come into his pharmacy and likes to help them, often going out of his way to make sure they understand their medications, she said.
He worked in a hospital pharmacy once and couldn’t stand being downstairs with no interaction with the patients.
“I’m kind of a people person,” he said. “We like our customers and they like us.”
Becca Owsley can be reached at 270- 505-1741 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Getting to know Gary Hamm