Family-owned pharmacy depends on personal touch to survive

Maureen Mccarthy

During the early 1940s, Brockton resident Howard Duval had a dream of saving up enough money one day to open his own community pharmacy in Whitman’s town center.

In 1946, he and his son, John H. Duval Jr., and nephew, Buzz Perry, did just that.

Now more than six decades later, Duval’s Pharmacy Inc. at Washington Street and South Avenue still embraces a sense of community as it bucks the trend of giant chain drugstores.

“I hear a lot of stories from older people where they (original owners) would come out in the middle of the night or cancel old bills. They just cared,” said third-generation Duval’s Pharmacy owner John Duval III of his predecessors. “That is why we have been successful for over 60 years.”

Duval’s is a rarity nowadays — a family-owned pharmacy amid dueling chain pharmacies on busy corners with discount retail giants Wal-Mart and Target entering the business.

The Whitman establishment offers the personal touch.

“We truly care about each person that walks in and hope they are satisfied when they walk out,” said Duval.

The 5000-square-foot, full-service pharmacy also specializes in home health care devices and employs about 30 full- and part-time employees.

“We offer everything from Band-Aids to hospital beds and everything in between,” he said.

As you approach the pharmacy in the back of the store, customers are immediately drawn to photos of youngsters — John’s grandchildren and many of his employees’ grandchildren — under a protective layer of Plexiglas at the pharmacy counter.

“My mother started doing this many years ago,” John Duval said of the family tradition. “Now customers ask us to update them on a regular basis.”

Local leaders say the store’s location in the center of town reflects its role.

“They are at the center of this community … a historical part of town,” said June O’Leary, founder and project manager for the Friends of Whitman Park. “I can’t think of any other place in town that is more a part of this town than Duval’s.”

And the town has recognized that role, naming a local elementary school in memory of John’s father, John H. Duval Jr.

“I think they looked at the many, many years of contributions my Dad, my grandfather and my cousin Buzz made to the children of the town, both as groups and as individuals,” John Duval III said. “It is pretty amazing that an owner of a local pharmacy could have a school named after him. It is a great honor.”

At any given time during the week, customers may be greeted by third, fourth and fifth generation Duvals.

Sons Craig and Marc Duval and their families are familiar faces at the pharmacy.

Craig, 45, started working at the store at age 14.

“I have been a clerk, stocked the shelves, assistant manager and a buyer,” he said of his early years in the business. Today, he works alongside his pharmacist father as a certified pharmacy technician and store manager.

Valuing customers and embracing the community, capture the essence of their family-run business, both sons say.

“It’s a nice feeling,” Marc Duval, 44, a merchandise buyer, said of the drugstore’s longstanding presence in town. “We have a lot of loyal customers that we have developed relationships with over the years, which makes it a very rewarding job.”

The Enterprise