PUTNEY -- From the very first time Jim Heal walked in to the Putney General Store with the intent of purchasing the business he envisioned a pharmacy on the second floor.
Heal has been a pharmacist for 30 years, and when his wife heard the business was for sale in March and the couple visited the store Heal said the second floor was the perfect place to open Putney's first pharmacy.
"It had handicapped parking, an elevator, and the Putney Historical Society had put in a security system and sprinkler. It was perfect," Heal said, standing behind the counter after waiting on some customers. "This is just the way I imagined it."
It took Heal a little longer than he thought to get his permits and stock his shelves, but The Putney Pharmacy is open for business.
Heal has a long history of opening and managing pharmacies in Windham County.
He worked in a number of pharmacies in Brattleboro and in November 1998 began working in Townshend at Messenger Valley Pharmacy which is owned by Grace Cottage Hospital.
Over the past three years Heal was director of the Messenger Valley Pharmacy when the Townshend business was renovating and expanding its store.
Just before purchasing The Putney General Store, Heal and his wife were in Florida looking at retirement homes for a planned move.
The couple found a community they liked and flew back to Vermont when his wife, Jane, heard that the former owner of The Putney General Store had abruptly announced that he would be leaving Vermont due to health concerns.
The Heals visited the store on a Monday in early March and by the end of that week they had an agreement with the former owner, and with the Putney Historical Society, which owns the building.
Heal and his wife purchased the Putney General Store in May and since then he has been busy establishing the first floor grocery and deli business and slowly renovating the second floor for the pharmacy.
It has taken a while to secure the necessary licenses from the state, and Heal says he also has had to establish accounts with the various insurance companies so he could serve customers with their individual insurance plans.
He received his temporary pharmacy license on Sept. 5 and opened on Sept. 16.
Heal admits that there have been some financial and logistical challenges to opening the pharmacy, but also says that so far there has been growing support for the business.
With three residential private schools in Putney, including Landmark College, Greenwood School and The Putney School, Heal says there is an untapped market in filling prescriptions for young students who are away from home.
And just down the road the newly renovated and expanded Putney Family Healthcare, which is a member of the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital Physician Group, is writing prescriptions for local patients all day.
Heal also mentions Vermont's, and Putney's, aging population along with the growing movement to drive less and shop locally.
"Putney has never had a pharmacy and we are really excited to finally be able to provide this service for people up here," he said.
Heal has his technology up and running and is accepting e-prescriptions from area doctors.
He also says Putney Pharmacy will deliver to homes in Putney, Dummerston, Westminster and Saxtons River.
With foliage season in full swing the first floor was buzzing on Friday morning.
The kitchen staff was busy preparing food and tourists and locals moved in and out of the store, filling up cups of coffee and shopping.
Heal understands that customers develop personal relationships with their pharmacist and it might take a little while for people to switch over.
Most pharmacists, he says, long for owning their own store and after 30 years Heal now has a store to call his own.
"The General Store was rebuilt because the community wanted it, and this store has always been about community," he said. "The more the community supports this the more I will be able to give back to the community. Having a pharmacy as a part of the general store has always been a part of making this a whole center where you can get what you need. You can just about anything here now."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext. 279 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.