Concord’s Granite State Pharmacy forced to close up shop for good 

  • Thomas Wilmot, co-owner and pharmacist at Granite State Pharmacy in McKee Square, works at his station on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Thomas Wilmot, co-owner and pharmacist at Granite State Pharmacy in McKee Square, looks down where the masks were usually kept on the shelves of the store on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. Wilmot doesn’t expect any shipments of masks or sanitizer anytime soon. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor Staff
Published: 6/29/2020 4:51:02 PM

About four months ago, Tom Wilmot of Concord, co-owner of Granite State Pharmacy in the South End of Concord, realized his business was living on borrowed time.

The slide began last year, when Wilmot and his longtime business partner, Chad Bean of Laconia, renovated the pharmacy at a high cost. Foot traffic, though, never improved much.

Then the coronavirus hit in March, shrinking up-front sales. Worse, the pharmacy out back couldn’t stay afloat, either, the victim of a nationwide trend: the death of the small, independent pharmacy due to competition from national chains.

So last Thursday, Granite State Pharmacy closed its doors for good, selling their files and inventory to CVS Pharmacy on Hall Street, and leaving behind an empty store that’s full of memories.

“I’m very sad,” Wilmot said by phone from his other, still-afloat pharmacy in Newport. “This was not what any of us expected.”

He and Bean have been business partners for more than a decade. They formed a partnership in 2014, a year after Bean bought what had been Modern Pharmacy for more than 40 years.

Wilmot said he felt sales declining far earlier than this past spring, saying, “The business has struggled to be profitable for two or three years.”

Neither Wilmot nor Bean ever imagined this, though. In fact, Wilmot and Bean were confident enough to invest money last year so the pharmacy could undergo a facelift.

“We were slugging along, doing okay,” Wilmot said. “I thought the renovation would help.”

There was hope for a happy ending when Wilmot chose to retire and he and Bean sought another co-owner to team with Bean.

“We were unsuccessful in finding a partner with the right chemistry to work out,” Wilmot said. “Buying into a pharmacy partnership is expensive, and banks are not usually willing to finance much of the cost.”

Wilmot still has a pharmacy in Newport, and he said it’s fine because local manufacturers “have a little more say with the insurance companies.”

That apparently wasn’t the case in Concord. Wilmot said he was squeezed out by forces that controlled drug prices, charged hidden fees and provided access to prescription benefits through mail-order pharmacies only, at the exclusion of a business like Granite State Pharmacy.

He said pharmacy benefit managers (PBM), formed years ago to help process claims from local pharmacies, created the beginning of the end for places like Granite State Pharmacy.

The PBM morphed into a giant.

“Their job was to process the transactions,” Wilmot said, “and they have grown to a point where they dictate the show. Community pharmacists must sign contracts with pharmacy benefit managers to have access to patients with prescription cards. They offer take-it-or-leave-it contracts, without any negotiation.”

The lease at Granite State had eight years remaining, but the lessor cut the pair some slack, asking for three years’ rent to honor the contract.

Wilmot planned to retire in the fall, but said he’ll have hip replacement surgery sooner than expected from the split he did while skiing in his late 50s.

He’s 65 now. He said the old building should sell relatively easily.

“I think it will,” Wilmot said. “There’s such a strong real estate market that someone will want it, and I hope it’s something like a professionally run restaurant.”

As for the business he owned since 2014, Wilmot couldn’t help but wonder what sort of effect the pandemic had on the future of Granite State Pharmacy.

“Maybe if the coronavirus had not happened,” Wilmot said, “we would be doing better. We’ll never know.”


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