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92 years of Stacey’s Drug Store comes to an end in Foley--An APR News Feature

APR's Guy Busby

A piece of Baldwin County history is undergoing some big changes. Stacey’s Drug store in downtown Foley has been around since 1927. This week the neighborhood pharmacy filled its last prescription.

The soda fountain remains busy at Stacey’s Drug store. Customers belly up to the bar for an ice cream sundae or a black cow. 

By contrast, no one is standing in line at the antique wood and glass pharmacy counter. It’s here where customers picked up prescriptions for more than 92 years. Like many other independent pharmacies, the drug store at Stacey’s is closed.

“The store’s been here for over 90 years and I’ve owned it for about 16 and half years,” said Ernia Langham, Stacey's owner and pharmacist. "We had a good business. We did a fair amount of prescriptions and we were probably above average as far as independent pharmacists go, but we had a big load of Medicare patients and the mix was not conducive to staying open."

Langham said the announcement that the pharmacy would close shocked many long-time residents.

"We have a lot of people that are upset. It’s kind of sad that people. We’ve had customers, one man told me yesterday that he’s been walking here for 60 years, walking to the store," Langham said. "There are a lot of people who have been coming here, 40 years, 20 years, 30 years and they haven’t been anywhere else. Very loyal customers and I hated to have to close, but it’s not much else I could do."

Langham said he plans to keep the store open. But he can’t afford to continue running an independent pharmacy.

"The soda fountain will remain open and we’ve moved all our files and information to CVS. I’m going to go work for them and two of my technicians are going to go work for them and we’re going to try to expand on the soda fountain up front and change this into something that’s conducive with the soda fountain," he said. "I don’t know what we’re going to do back here yet. I haven’t made up my mind. I’ve got to clear all this out, get this space opened up. That’s probably going to take a little bit to do that. We’ll expand and keep that going."

That’s not much comfort for long time Stacey’s customer like Annette Weir.  

"I had all my prescriptions here and I always enjoyed doing business local and I really hate to see them go, but I understand change is part of life," she said. "I’ll still enjoy the soda fountain here with my family."

Weir said she’s been coming to Stacey for prescriptions for about 35 years.

"I just wanted to support the local small business instead of always the big box stores coming in and they were always just very thoughtful and kind and efficient, always, good service," she said.

Tim Russell is another regular at Stacey’s.

"I was really saddened because I’m a small business person and I support homegrown businesses and it’s been here forever," he said. "It’s just sad to think to think we don’t have local pharmacies anymore. I know we have wonderful new international franchises in Foley, but I like the idea that you could have a local pharmacist."

Russell is more than a customer. He’s also a former Alabama revenue commissioner and a lifelong Foley area resident. Across Laurel Avenue from Stacey’s, Russell points to another old two-story brick building a half block up the street. That’s the site of south Baldwin County’s first hospital.

"My mom and dad were customers of Stacy’s when I was born and I was born in the hospital here and they just walked down to Stacy’s and got the prescription when I was born," he said. "So for 71 years, I’ve been going there. Our family’s had a long history there."

Russell said Stacey’s has a long history of serving the community not just for the Foley area, but the entire state.

"When I was mayor of Foley for three terms, we did Heritage Harbor Days exchanges with seven different cities throughout the United States and we would go visit those cities and then when their team would come visit us, Stacy’s would always work with us as one of the main feature areas," he said. "We would have them come in and make themselves at home, so Stacy’s played a big part in my administration when I was mayor of Foley."

Another memory for Tim Russell was the service Stacey’s provided when he was a child.

"I remember also a few times when Mom called in prescriptions and since we lived in Magnolia Springs and the long-time operator there also lived in Magnolia Springs, he would drop the prescription by the house for us so that was always nice. It’s hard to beat that kind of service," he said.

Langham said that kind of service is a thing of the past.

"It’s getting to the point where you have to do a lot of volume with a few amount of people and that kind of personal service slipping away. You can’t afford to do it anymore," he said. "The free deliveries we used to do, we can’t really do that anymore, so as the profit margin shrinks on those prescriptions, the industry changes and the personal service touch, it just goes away."

Guy Busby is an Alabama native and lifelong Gulf Coast resident. He has been covering people, events and interesting occurrences on America’s South Coast for more than 20 years. His experiences include riding in hot-air balloons and watching a ship being sunk as a diving reef. His awards include a national Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists as part of the APR team on the series “Oil and Water,” on the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Some of his other interests include writing, photography and history. He and his wife, Elizabeth, live in Silverhill.
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