From the moment Pharmasave Powell River opened its doors in September 2015, owner Alaa Amara had a vision to offer a friendly pharmacy alternative with staff dedicated to making a difference in the lives of each customer.
“We are doing the pharmacy business in a different way,” says Amara.
Amara and his staff take the time to learn about everyone who visits the store and make sure each customer’s needs are met in an efficient and responsible manner.
“When you talk to people and find out their stories, what they went through or what they are going through, you feel compassion for them, and they feel comfortable,” says Amara. “People only need one visit here to see the difference.”
In addition to prescription medication, the pharmacy offers vitamins and supplements, home health-care products, family planning, pain relief and skin care items, as well as greeting cards, beverages, snacks and even laundry detergent.
“This is a complete pharmacy,” says Amara. “We have almost everything anyone needs at a reasonable price.”
Originally from Egypt, Amara earned a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy before spending 12 years working in the pharmaceutical industry in the Middle East. He moved to Canada eight years ago to study and then worked for Shoppers Drug Mart in Vancouver.
“I came to Canada to do my MBA [master of business administration] degree at Simon Fraser University,” explains Amara, “then I went to UBC for a year and got my pharmacy licence here.”
While spending time in Vancouver, Amara says he noticed a different lifestyle than the Egyptian city he grew up in.
“Like everyone who comes to Canada, I’ve realized a difference,” he says. “It’s the best place to raise your kids, so I decided it was the best place to live and moved my family here.”
Amara came to Powell River to work as a temporary employee for one week in early 2015. Once again he noticed a difference, this time it involved going from a big Canadian city to a small Canadian town.
“Everyone is always smiling here; it’s not a stressful life like in the city,” he says. “A lot of people have moved from another town, city or province, so everyone here is looking to make friends. I don’t like the crazy-busy life in the city anymore; I like it here now.”
During his first visit, Amara saw a need for a new kind of pharmacy that offers customers a compassionate environment, a welcoming atmosphere and more options, including shorter wait times for prescriptions, free deliveries and a monitoring service to ensure seniors who are unable to visit the store are taking their medications properly.
“We have a lot of seniors here who don’t drive and live by themselves,” says Amara. “If they call and need anything from our store, we will take it to them.”
Families who are travelling and have concerns about a loved one’s well-being can arrange for daily medication deliveries as well, adds Amara.
Pharmasave employs two pharmacists and four pharmacy assistants with diverse backgrounds, including Tara Harry, who was born and raised in Powell River and is a member of Tla’amin Nation; Marijana Essex, who came to Canada from Bosnia as a teenager and donates her time in the community to help people in need; Tanya Mapisa Awaeze, who plans to follow in the footsteps of her father, a local physician, when she starts medical school; and Grace Woloschuk, who was born and raised in Powell River and is currently studying medical transcription.
“All of us treat everyone like they are the only customer here; that’s why people keep coming back,” says Amara. “We don’t treat people like we are doing a favour for them; we know they are doing a favour for us by shopping here.”
Fresh coffee is available for free on a daily basis and ample parking around the store makes it easier for customers with mobility issues to park closer than at other shopping areas.
“We are grateful to everyone who switched to our pharmacy,” says Amara. “My staff and I feel that we owe a lot to the community for the support.”
Store hours are 7 am-8 pm Monday to Friday, 8 am-6 pm Saturdays, and 8 am-5 pm on Sundays at 4280 Joyce Avenue.
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