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The last day of business for Smith-McKenney

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A grand old business in Shelbyville closes its doors for the final time tonight, reopening on Monday under ownership of CVS, with many of the same faces and services still in place.

By Lisa King

The mood at Smith-McKenney in Village Plaza today will be one of bittersweet emotions as employees wrap up their last day of business before being taken over by CVS.

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“I’ve been doing this for a long time, forty years, and I know these people – we’re like a family, and it’ll be tough, leaving,” owner Greg Hayes said. “But the cycle goes on, you know, and the one thing that’s constant in life is change.”

Smith-McKenney will close its doors at 7 p.m. and will be closed all weekend, reopening Monday as CVS pharmacy.

Hayse said that this week, as customers have been learning about the change, the mood in the store has been one of uncertainty and trepidation, as they have been expressing concerns about the possibility of an interruption in getting their prescriptions filled.

“There is no need for people to worry about that at all,” Hayse said. “Pharmacy law requires that when you have a purchase like this, the next business will pick it up and keep those files so customers can get their prescriptions filled on a timely basis.

“So all our records will be transferred over to CVS, so there should be no problem for customers, and no loss of their records. Everything will just continue on as usual.”

Hayse said CVS has been very accommodating about keeping things the same as much as possible, although, of course, the company will have to make some changes, he said.

“They [CVS officials] have bought some of our inventory, but most of will be CVS,” he said. “The appearance is going to change, of course, because they have their own style, just like all businesses do.”

The majority of employees at Smith-McKenney, most of whom have worked there for years, have decided to stay, an option given to them by CVS, Hayse said.

Most of them work at the Shelbyville store said they were glad that CVS is trying to make as few changes as possible.

“I’ve been here for a long time, and I will just continue to do what I’ve been doing,” said delivery person Chuck Radcliff. “People have been worried about if we will still be delivering, and I have been telling them we will. The good thing about the CVS people, they said, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’”

Anita Thompson, a clerk who works in the front of the store, said customers have been telling her that they will miss the personal service they have always enjoyed from the Smith-McKenney staff.

“But I have been telling them, don’t panic, we will all still be here,” she said.

Customer Sue Smitha of Shelbyville said she remembers sitting on a stool at the soda counter of the store on Main Street when she was a child.

“I’ve been coming to Smith-McKenney all my life; there’s no reason to quit now,” she said with a grin at Thompson.

Marci Hill, a 15-year Smith-McKenney employee who is going to be the new assistant manager, said she is sad that Hayse will be leaving and about the changes that will be made, but at the same time, she said she is excited, too.

“New things are ahead, and that’s not a bad thing,” she said. “Yes, we will have a different owner, but when customers come in, they will see the same faces around here.”

Those faces have changed over the years, from when the store first opened on Main Street as a dry goods store in the 1800s under W.G. Owens, down to “Pop” Smith and William McKenney in 1904, to Shug Hickman and Bill Borders and Martha Donovan, who came aboard as a third partner later.

The store moved to Village Plaza in 1973, after having been damaged by fire the previous year on Main Street.

Hayes, a pharmacist who came on board in 1972,  became part owner in 1989, when Donovan retired. He said he that, unfortunately, the Simpsonville store, which has been operated by employee Ron McClish since it opened in 2004, will be closing, but its last day will be Wednesday.

Hayse said he decided to sell the business because he wants to retire.

“I’ve been at this for forty years, and I’m tired,” he said. “The health-care system has changed so drastically. When I first came into pharmacy, the number one priority was to fill the prescription. Now, the focus has shifted to making sure the prescription is billed correctly.

“We constantly have prescriptions that are being rejected by insurance companies, leaving patients without medication, waiting for approval. It has left me feeling a little behind, and I just think it’s time to turn it over to someone fresh,” he said.

As the employees gathered around Hayse for a group photo on Thursday, he received tearful hugs all around.
“I’ve been working here for six years, since I was a freshman in high school,” said Megan Harbin, glancing at Hayse. “It won’t be the same without him, but I think we’re going to OK.”