Peterson's Pharmacy to close after 85 years

Owner says mail-order and insurance companies cut profits

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Peterson's Pharmacy was among the first stores to open in 1929, the year the Medical Arts Building on the 700 block of Lake Street was built, and not a lot has changed with the independently run store since its inception.

But the store will close its doors for the last time on July 21, according to its current owner Bill Elich, 68, and it's uncertain what will take its place.

Elich, who purchased the store in 1990, said he is retiring from running the store largely because of insurance companies paying less for prescriptions and customers turning more often to the Internet for their prescription drugs.

"The insurance companies make it impossible to try to stay in business because there's no profit in it anymore, and people have to go to mail order; people buy everything online, so brick-and-mortar pharmacies are a thing of the past," Elich said. "I always tell people I can beat Walgreen's on price and service and everything else, but I can't beat the mail-order."

He said that part of the loss in profit is fewer people paying out of pocket and more coming in with insurance coverage.

"People order online and the big insurance companies tell people they can maybe get a 30-day supply from me, but if they want to pay less money, they have to get it from the mailman. So the mailman beat me, basically."

He said that recently a customer wanted to transfer a prescription over to his store, "but it would have cost me $3,500 to buy the drug, and the insurance company was going to pay me $3,505."

"I would have made a five-dollar profit on a $3,500 prescription," he said. "You can't make money that way. It used to not work that way. It used to be more reasonable what they were paying."

Elich noted that he sold his inventory and customer files to Walgreen's. Peterson's is having a going-out-of-business sale on Friday, July 17, Elich said.

Elich said he plans to continue living in Elmwood Park, noting that he'll still be around town.

"I've made a lot of good friends over the years, and I'm going to miss my customers," he said.

There are no plans for a new tenant at the store, according to Jack Sheehan, co-owner of the Medical Arts Building.

He his Realtor has just begun marketing the storefront, which is just shy of 1,200 square feet.

"It's a good size for a nice little shop," he said.

The building still is populated largely by medical-type businesses, with an eye surgeon, an eye glass shop and a dentist, according to Sheehan.


Reader Comments

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Roland Thomas from Charlotte   

Posted: November 7th, 2014 8:10 PM

I have to agree with Todd Eury. Pharmacists cannot survive by dispensing traditional scripts alone. The store probably looks and operates like it did 20 years ago. I hope I don't come across as being insensitive and never visited but like many others, the pharmacy retired and forced the owner into retirement.

Sarah L from Oak Park IL  

Posted: August 29th, 2014 12:20 PM

I should say thanks for so many years of great service on my prescriptions. No other pharmacy could match you. You hooked into the electronic Rx when that came in. My own meds were not covered by insurance but I could still afford them buying from Peterson's. All good things come to an end, I guess.

Sarah L from Oak Park IL  

Posted: August 29th, 2014 12:09 PM

Oh I guess you can retire but who will replace Peterson's Pharmacy? They delivered! I got a scrip filled in July and he did not tell me the closing was so soon. I wish another real pharmacy would use that space.


Posted: July 28th, 2014 3:18 PM

So sad. Drove there today to fill my prescription and couldn't believe it. I was there 2 weeks ago and I had no idea. This place might have had dusty items on the shelves, but the service and prescriptions couldn't be beat. Bill would fill my prescription in 5 minutes and never made me feel bad about it. I'm on a monthly pain medication and Walgreens and others make you feel like a criminal trying to get it filled. Bill knew me, my medical history, and never gave me a problem.

Todd Eury from Pittsburgh   

Posted: July 22nd, 2014 11:44 PM

As cold as it might sound, Peterson's Pharmacy didn't evolve. I spend my professional life assisting Independent Pharmacy in the states survive, thrive, and be more profitable. Believe me - I know all about reimbursement issues. My comment is about preparing, change, and seeing the future. If Peterson's 5 years, 3 years, maybe 18 months ago would have evolved, stepped outside their comfort zones. It's possible and it's what I do to help privately owned pharmacies survive.

OP Transplant  

Posted: July 22nd, 2014 4:25 PM

Megan - I recommend Sear's Pharmacy on Madison. They deliver, and they've been very helpful with my family.

Megan Tideman from Oak Park  

Posted: July 22nd, 2014 4:24 PM

Sorry, I'm not used to not being able to edit--I worry my tone sounds angry when it's really just disappointed. This pharmacy has been great and so helpful with all my questions and needs; it will be much missed.

Megan Tideman from Oak Park  

Posted: July 22nd, 2014 4:15 PM

What am I supposed to do about my prescriptions? I go multiple times a month to this pharmacy. They've always been so helpful in delivering meds for me, and now that the Walgreens (AND Dominick's!) is closed, where am I supposed to go? I wish they would've told me last time I was in (two weeks ago)! There was a young pharmacist who worked in the evenings; I had always thought that she would take it over when Bill decided to resign. :(

Mary Darnall from Oak Park  

Posted: July 20th, 2014 10:29 AM

Bill was able to fill a prescription that no other chain was able to. We paid cash. Sorry there weren't more like us, Bill. I suspect yiu didn't charge us the full amount, anyway! Enjoy your retirement. You will be missed.

Vero from O P  

Posted: July 19th, 2014 9:29 PM

I thing it is time for retirement, and is something good! a lot of years of work and now is time for enjoying more your life ! congratulations!

Irish Lass  

Posted: July 19th, 2014 7:13 PM

The loss of Peterson's Pharmacy and Bill Elich cannot be comprehended by those who don't have medical issues that require regular medication. Bill is an expert in his business and is a font of knowledge for his customers. There is NO danger of a drug mishap/mix-up like there is using a Walgreens( was once given someone else's medication!) or other large supplier. Since Obamacare has been passed, small, private pharmacies are closing nationwide. It's a race to the bottom in quality!

Victor Yipp from Oak Park  

Posted: July 19th, 2014 12:28 PM

I enjoyed being a customer of Bill's. We should support our local, independent businesses. Have your prescriptions transferred to Sears Pharmacy on Madison. That's what I plan on doing. Best wishes on retirement, Bill. GO CUBS!!!

Paddy Boy  

Posted: July 18th, 2014 4:10 PM

OK, OK, ..... I met to say Bill Elich....

Paddy Boy  

Posted: July 18th, 2014 4:08 PM

Bill Peterson took care of my parents prescriptions for many years. Yes the store was a little old school ..... so what? Paddy Boy is a bit "old school" himself. Big picture - Bill took good care of his customers and was especially nice and patient with seniors.

Grateful RF resident  

Posted: July 18th, 2014 3:27 PM

Bill Elich is "one in a million". He special-ordered a specific medicine for my daughter with autism, which none of the big chains would do (at no profit, I am sure). He hand delivered prescriptions to people who couldn't pick them up. He is a good friend and pharmacist. Mail order can't ever replace Bill. Thank you Peterson's and Bill for being a part of our community. We will miss you but wish you well!

OP Transplant  

Posted: July 18th, 2014 2:50 PM

This place was like a pharmacy museum. That could also play a role in their recent financial problems.

RF from OP  

Posted: July 18th, 2014 2:39 PM

I remember the Petersons , who lived on Elmwood, across from Taylor Park. Joe was the son of the founder, I believe. Really nice folks


Posted: July 18th, 2014 2:18 PM

My mother has been forced to mail order. I recently looked at her 3 month supply of multiple meds. They all looked exactly the same. Same size bottle. Same white label with black print - and all information on those bottles in the same small print. An invitation for an error. Save a few pennies on the prescriptions but risk a major medical problem and maybe hospitalization if she mixes them up. Anybody who can afford to stay away from mail order should do so.

Chappy Jennings from Oak Park  

Posted: July 18th, 2014 1:49 PM

Been in Oak Park 11 years now and never set foot in there...


Posted: July 18th, 2014 10:51 AM

not sure what will be left for the going out of business sale, went in yesterday and the place is really bare, best of luck in retirement

Ellen Barnard Alamilla from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 17th, 2014 7:16 PM

Dr. Elich, we wish you the best in retirement!!! I know how fond Mr. Soderdahl was of you, and how loyal he felt to your store. Would have loved to see the article tell more about the 85 years Peterson's was in business in Oak Park. Might it be the 2nd oldest retail business in OP, Pieritz being 1st?


Posted: July 17th, 2014 7:00 PM

@Aging....I will give you that. I thought their inventory was pretty humorous..I like looking through the CDs from 1989


Posted: July 17th, 2014 6:59 PM

What a loss.

Aging Disgracefully   

Posted: July 17th, 2014 6:58 PM

Honestly, some of the old small businesses need to pay more attention to their cluttered, dusty, faded front windows and outdated inventory.

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