By John Burton
RED BANK – Michael Yura’s memories of his parents’ business fill his entire life.
Even as a very young child, Yura, now 40, remembers the time spent at Professional Pharmacy – including helping with the chores – at the 134 Broad St. store.
Now those memories will be just that, memories, as Yura prepares to shutter the business.
For 17 years Yura has run the drug and gift store, taking over from his parents a business that has become a steadfast institution that has operated for six decades in the area.
The closing of the only remaining independently owned pharmacy in town will leave the borough with just one pharmacy.
Times are changing, said Yura, who is a pharmacist.
One of the biggest changes affecting his business has been that many insurance companies dictate where those they cover must have their prescriptions filled, Yura said.
“The choice is being stripped from the consumer,” he said.
That, coupled with increased regulations and the difficulty of continuing to operate and compete against the large chains, have made it difficult to continue.
“It’s probably no different than a lot of businesses in these tough times,” he said.
Professional Pharmacy dates back about 60 years. It was founded by Jay Greenburg and bought by Yura’s parents roughly 48 years ago. They ran the store until Michael Yura took it over.
When his parents first owned the business, there were about a dozen similar drug stores, independently owned and operated, in the community, he said.
“The pharmacy has always been part of my life,” he said.
As far as memory will allow, he remembers being in the store. One of the lasting images of his childhood is coming to the store and his parents, “giving me small, little jobs to do,” he said.
“I’ll probably never forget helping my father put the Sunday papers together,” he said.
It was working with his dad, Richard Yura, which taught Yura the most about his job. “What I learned from him was that one of the things my father tried to provide was great customer service,” Yura said.
His father, he said, understands the decision to close the store. Richard Yura, 77, retired about 15 years ago, and lives in Lincroft.
As a pharmacist, Yura said, he has had a very special relationship with those who come to him with their health care needs. “I see people in these little snippets of time,” as they come to fill their prescriptions, he said.
Yura gets to understand – in a small way – what his customers may be going through during periods in their lives. They are sometimes very difficult times and he is able to share different aspects of their lives as they chat and wait for their orders.
“People have trusted us with so much,” he said. “It’s been an honor to have that trust.
“That’s the part they didn’t teach you about in college,” he said.
Yura – with the help of a generator and his employees – opened the day after Super Storm Sandy to be there for his customers. “People were so happy and grateful we were here,” to provide needed medications and maybe other more mundane but comforting wants during a particularly stressful time. “I wanted to be there for them,” he said.
Another important relationship he has developed has been with the 30 full- and part-time employees, some of whom have been with Professional Pharmacy for many years. One staff member has worked there for about 24 years while others have helped customers between eight and 15 years.
Yura knows one local family that had four of the five kids work in the store and another family that had all four children employed at one time or another at Professional Pharmacy.
There are many other stories of local Red Bank teens finding their first job stocking shelves and working behind the counter.
“It truly was a family environment. My family and I definitely couldn’t have done it over these years without these wonderful people,” who were customers and employees, he said.
Not seeing those familiar faces is what made his decision to close so incredibly difficult, he said.
“This is definitely nothing to take lightly,” he said.
As for his future, Yura is “not 100 percent sure” what he will do.
Yura, a Lincroft resident, said he might move out west, something he’s long considered; but he suspects wherever he ends up, he will remain a pharmacist.
“All these pieces will work themselves out,” he said.