Rural Algoma customers may be surprised to see Joseph Greco, one of the owners of the four IDA Drug Marts in Sault Ste. Marie, pulling into their driveway to hand-deliver their prescription. In these trying times of COVID-19, Joseph says it is all hands on deck when it comes to ensuring customers’ needs are being met.
“Since COVID, many customers are staying home and wanting home delivery of their medications,” says Joseph. “We’re now as much involved as the staff and doing no-fee deliveries down the line as far as St. Joseph Island, west to Gros Cap and north to Batchewana to alleviate the pressure on our drivers and to keep up with demand.”
Joseph co-owns and operates the four local IDA drug stores along with Sam DeSumma, Frank Perna and Mark Febbraro.
“People have supported us since Palumbo Pharmacy first opened here in 1957, so we’ll do whatever we can do to return that support to our customers,” says Joseph. “We’re a locally owned and operated business. We’re not guys in a big city making decisions or hiding behind a board room table. We’re out there supporting our community.”
Palumbo’s Pharmacy, originally located on Gore Street, later moved to Lake and Wellington in the 1960s. Next followed the opening of a pharmacy in the Market Mall in the late 1960s, followed by the Station Mall and Wellington Square locations.
“The IDA stores were all original tenants for Station Mall, Wellington Square and Market Mall,” says Joseph, adding that all three were ‘Howie Tishman buildings’ – a well-known developer.
Joseph is one of two additional drivers added to alleviate the pressure of the three regular drivers and ensure customer deliveries can be timely. Typically, their roster of three drivers delivers to upwards of 100 to 150 customers daily, however, since the onset of COVID-19 pandemic emergency measures, that has jumped to upwards of 300 deliveries daily.
For customers who call in during the morning asking for same-day service, their prescriptions will be delivered by mid-evening. All payments are done over the phone using a charge card, drivers do not carry cash.
“We typically wait until late afternoon and then drive out to our rural locations,” says Joseph. And while customers are adhering to the stay home advisory, all IDA staff are ensuring that any customer interaction is done with everyone’s safety and protection, in mind.
“Delivery isn’t just delivery now,” he says. “A lot of customers will say just ring the bell when you arrive and then place my order in my mailbox or ask us to leave it on the step and they’ll then come out and get it. We use whatever discretion our customer asks for to ensure their health.”
And for those customers still coming into the store, Joseph says they can still expect a warm greeting, however, it will be by staff wearing gloves and masks and behind a partition at the tills.
“Our staff have stepped up to the plate in unbelievable ways to ensure that our customers’ needs are being met,” he says. “Every person who works for us is invested in our community and even in tough times, they come in with a smile on their face and have been able to work through every concern.”
Joseph says he operates his business based on a common philosophy shared with him by two of his mentors – his own grandfather, Ron Disano, and local businessman, Ben Pino.
“When I first started practising as a lawyer, Ben told me that as long as I was fair, I’d do fine in business,” says Joseph. “And it echoed what my own grandfather said, that fair was important.”For Joseph and his pharmacy colleagues, he says that community spirit is something that starts with ensuring solid internal customer service and then sharing it out in the greater community. And he adds, it means more than customer service, it means ensuring that you are helping those in need in your community.
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