Prescription for staffing
The New Rockford Central Pharmacy team includes, from left: Renae Alfstad, Kody Lura, Shane Wendel, Leona Kulsrud, Sarah Tulving, Rose Allmaras and Faith Presnell. (Photo by John Kary)
Wendel has found a way to recruit and employ other pharmacists, allowing him to keep full-time pharmacies operating in Carrington and New Rockford.
Wendel employs two full-time pharmacists – Kristin Cabler in Carrington and Kody Lura in New Rockford. Both are graduates of Carrington High School and North Dakota State University (NDSU) School of Pharmacy who chose to return to their hometown area.
A native of LaMoure who grew up on a farm, Wendel is also an NDSU School of Pharmacy graduate whose first job took him to St. Cloud, Minn., to work at a corporate-owned pharmacy.
“It didn’t take me too long to figure out that corporate life was not for me and I always wanted to own my own business and create my own path,” he says.
While interviewing for a staff pharmacist position in New Rockford in 1997, he also asked about ownership opportunities.
The owner, Tom Seaburg, created a junior partnership with Wendel, which defined the path for Wendel to purchase both pharmacies in 2009.
“It was a very good way to transition from employee to owner. I did not know all the ins and outs of owning a retail business and running a pharmacy. It was great to learn from somebody that’s done it for 30 years,” he says.
His pharmacies are full-service drugstores, also offering gifts, cards, household items, over-the-counter medications and beauty aids.
“They don’t teach you inventory management or merchandising in pharmacy school. It’s a little more complex than you think,” he says.
Like his predecessor, Wendel has actively worked to transition young pharmacists into his communities. He allows high school students to job shadow at the pharmacies, and NDSU School of Pharmacy students intern with him.
“Finding pharmacists who want to come to these small towns can be difficult for a lot of communities. We’ve just been very fortunate,” he says.
“The hardest thing about being a small-town retail pharmacist is if you’re not busy enough to hire more employees than just yourself, you really can’t get away,” he says.
That’s the pain Schlecht feels in Forman.
With a small staff, including his wife, Barb, who is a certified pharmacy technician and the pharmacy’s business manager, he is tied to the business.
“We really can’t get away. I haven’t had a vacation in years,” he says. “We’ve kind of done it to ourselves, but we kind of get overwhelmed or overworked sometimes.”
Schlecht, who purchased the Forman pharmacy in 1998, grew up on a farm near Enderlin. An NDSU School of Pharmacy graduate, he worked at a West Coast chain pharmacy, then at a hospital pharmacy in Iowa, before he and Barb wanted to return to a small North Dakota community with their two young children.
“We wanted to raise our kids in a small town and be part of a small community like we grew up in and this was just perfect,” he says.
Schlecht had little time with the former owner after he purchased the pharmacy. Instead, he relied on a community network that helped him learn the business aspect of a retail pharmacy.
“They were tickled to have a small-town guy want to come back to a small town. They were afraid they would lose their pharmacy if they couldn’t find a buyer or someone to take over,” he shares.
Besides caring for his patients, Schlecht has a strong sense of community, pointing to the importance of shopping locally and being committed to a community overall.
“Part of being a small-town pharmacist is being a community leader. It’s not just closing the door at 5:30 and going home. There are so many things I feel a responsibility for in town,” he says.
He serves on the board for the local nursing home and is president of the community development corporation.
“That’s an important part of what I do, too,” he says.