Downtown is always considered to be the heart of a community because it was where commercial activity first started. The newest chapter in the Sault Ste. Marie downtown story is the addition of the Queenstown IDA Drug Mart at the corner of Queen Street East and Bruce Street. In reality, a pharmacy is not a new activity to the downtown but it is one business that has been missing for many years.
Since the community’s early founding days, a pharmacy had always occupied a storefront, or two, along Queen Street, the most recent being Lawrence’s which was located next to the Sault Ste. Marie Museum.
Formerly located at the Station Mall, the newly-named Queenstown IDA Drug Mart opened at its downtown location in early December. Formerly known as the Station Mall IDA Drug Mart, it was, in fact, one of the first tenants when the mall first opened in 1973.
“We really tried our best to stay there (at Station Mall) but it wasn’t right for our business and our community,” says Joseph Greco, co-owner of the business. “We decided that we’d move up to Queen, buy a building and expand on what we were offering to better serve our community.”
By ‘we’, Greco is referring to his partners Sam DeSumma, Frank Perna and Mark Febbraro. In addition to this new location at Queen and Bruce Streets, their three other pharmacies are the Wellington Square IDA, Market Mall IDA, and Ideal Drug Mart on Wellington Street near Trunk Road.
“We initially invested over $1 million and by the time we finish up, with the installation of an elevator to the second floor and expanded parking (other buildings were purchased to provide additional parking), we will be looking at more than a $2 million investment,” says Greco.
The Queenstown IDA Drug Mart now occupies a storefront space that has seen the merging of two adjoining neighbour properties. The larger footprint was once home to Davis Clothing and, most recently, The Summit Church. The main portion of the building houses the pharmacy that is run by Frank Perna and Joe Greco Sr., a grocery section and a walk-in medical clinic where patients can consult with medical professionals via telemedicine. The location is also home to a Sweet Greetings Gift Boutique, a much-adored shop also with a downtown history, which features gifts, décor and gourmet items that are Canadian sourced. Gift baskets and a coffee shop further add to the indulgence factor, and the convenience factor of the pharmacy.
Adjacent was one of the oldest storefronts in the downtown that had been everything from a butcher shop to, most recently, Glassworks stained glass. A wall between the two locations, was opened and customers can walk into the now Canada Post outlet which also has tobacco, lottery and cold beverages for sale.
An expansion of this size, says Greco, was under a tight timeline and involved a lot of coordination. It is also a secure site with a complex security system to ensure the safety of everyone.
“I really have to give credit to Sam Biasucci of SalDan Development because he did this job in 75 days which is unprecedented,” says Greco. “He understood what we wanted and he made it happen in a seamless fashion.”
He also credits Andrea Niro and Tim Jenson of MET energy systems, a mechanical and engineering firm in the Sault, for their knowledge and know-how in making a project of this size ‘happen.’
Greco says that their team, of all 200 employees at all four IDA locations, really make the independently-owned pharmacies successful.
“We don’t offer run-of-the-mill pharmacies, we really take care of our people (staff) and they take care of the community,” he says. He is proud to be part of a family legacy that started with the Palumbo Pharmacy in 1957. It moved from Gore Street to Lake and Wellington in the 1960s and was then followed by the opening of a pharmacy in the Market Mall in the 1960s then followed by the Station Mall and Wellington Square locations. And now they have the next instalment of their story happening at the corner of Queen Street East and Bruce Street.
Queenstown IDA is located at 302 Queen Street East and is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 pm. and Sunday from noon until 5 p.m. This location features a virtual walk-in clinic with appointments available as well as walk-in services.
Further information this location, or any of the other four IDA locations, can be found online at www.drugmarts.ca.