A new ownership group has a few fresh ideas for the Hollywood landmark Paulsen’s Pharmacy, where Gary and Karen Balo have retired after more than 40 years of service to the neighborhood. Founded in 1918, this is only the fourth time that Paulsen’s, 4246 N.E. Sandy Blvd., has changed hands in its long history.
The new owners’ plans will not include removing the beloved soda fountain at the front of the shop or reducing the quality of service on which the Balo’s have built Paulsen’s reputation. The famous green chair facing the pharmacy counter – where generations of customers have waited for Balo to fill their prescriptions – will also remain. (It might get moved to the side for a day or two – during the installation of a new floor.)
The Balos’ business was purchased by Gary Basrai, who owns a collection of ten independent pharmacies in California, under the umbrella of The Haller’s Group. Basrai has partnered with Jon Tomin, an Oregonian with a background in robotic automation, who is also the founder of a local pharmacy-marketing business called InboundRX.
“InboundRX is a marketing agency designed to help independently owned pharmacies take back their towns from chain stores,” said Tomin. “We offer outsourcing of sales operations, development and recruiting and allow pharmacists to focus on what they do best: provide quality care for their patients.”
Basrai and Tomin brought in another Oregonian from InboundRX, COO Joe Amspoker, to serve as general manger of the pharmacy. Tomin and Amspoker met while their daughters were playing softball together in Tualatin.
“One of the things that attracted us to Paulsen’s was the history of the store and its place in the community,” said Tomin. “We believe our jobs here are as stewards of the landmark, and our goal is to reinforce its connection to the community, while bringing back some of the old-time look and feel.”
“We want this to be a place where people want to go,” said Amspoker. “We want to be a part of the Hollywood community and have people stop in not just for medications, but for a coffee or a chat.
We want this to be a bit of a destination. If you have some friends in from out of town over the weekend – and you’re showing them the city – we hope Paulsen’s will be a part of that trip.”
Tomin and Amspoker plan to organize and automate the back of the shop over the coming months, while cosmetic improvements are made to invigorate the community feel at the front of the shop.
They’ve already removed some gondolas from the middle of the store and old shelving from the front windows to open up the space and bring in more light.
“Customers are shocked at how much room there is now,” said Amspoker. “A few even took to dancing.”
Tomin’s expertise in robotics will play a role in the upgrade of the back of the shop. Plans for automation should improve delivery of patient medications and make it easier for Paulsen’s customers to manage their prescriptions.
“You’ll still be able to get a Green River,” said Tomin, “as well as all the fountain favorites that Paulsen’s has offered over the years. If neighbors have ideas on how we can improve, we’re here to listen. I’d encourage anyone to stop in, say “hello” and let us know how we’re doing. We want to honor the history of Portland, the store, and the Hollywood district.”
A re-opening event is tentatively planned for the weekend of the Grand Floral Parade on June 11 but may get pushed forward a bit as renovation plans evolve. The pharmacy will be offering discounted ice cream during the Junior Parade on June 8.
For more information on plans for Paulsen’s, visit the Paulsen’s Case Study blog at www.paulsensrx.com.