White Cross Dispensary - Chantal & James
White Cross Dispensary first opened in 1955. Tell us about how it has always maintained being a truly "local" business?
White Cross Dispensary was first opened by Mr. Bernard Helgason and Mr. Mark Kyba who then passed it on to Denise Allan and Deb Charron. We are the third owners and we are hoping that this pharmacy will always remain independent.
The first pharmacy advertisement in the 1955 newspaper stated that White Cross was « your complete drug store » Well, it has been just that for over 64 years and we strive to keep it this way. Exceptional service is what we understood from the previous owners to be the key to its success. We wish to continue to provide personalized services and we want our customers to always feel welcome in our pharmacy. We may be located in the Centretown and Golden Triangle communities, but many will be surprised to learn that we service all of Ottawa.
We are blessed to have very loyal customers. When we started in 2006, we were pleasantly surprised with the number of patrons that had been loyal for decades. Many shared stories of how they have been clients for 50 years and continue to this day. Some living in the area as students, and then moved away to raise their families continue to be clients. Many others worked in the area and found our service and location convenient. We are thankful that so many have continued to travel to Elgin Street for their prescriptions and many others continue to use our delivery service.
Why is being locally owned and operated so important to you?
Being independent means that you can make your business a reflection of your values. Having the freedom to decide every aspect of the business makes it a pleasure to go to work every day. We decide the products we carry, the services we offer and more importantly how we offer these services. We have the freedom to get to know our patients and this helps us become their family pharmacy.
Unlike other pharmacies, we have the liberty to special order a wide variety of products. For this reason, we often get referrals from other pharmacies. We also offer specialty services that other pharmacies don’t offer, so we then get referrals from physicians and other healthcare providers. Ownership also gives us the freedom to price products at a competitive price.
The front door of White Cross is the original even after decades of changes. Is there a list of things you strive to keep the same?
Personalized service is what we strive to keep the same. Our goal is to have a team of employees that are knowledgeable, friendly and motivated to make a difference in people’s lives. As owners, we try to make sure that they have the supplies and the tools needed to make their day at work more efficient. We are always investing in technology to offer choices to our patients. Long before some corporate stores, we have been texting patients when their prescriptions are ready, we have had a mobile app that keeps medication profiles accessible anytime and we offer personalized specialty packaging.
You both spend a fair bit of time working. How do you balance being business owners and making time for your family?
When you own and operate a pharmacy, responsibilities are numerous, and we need to stay up to date with all the new regulations and pharmacy standards. Working hours are not limited to our hours of operation. We have chosen to be owners that are involved and present, this means that we do spend long hours working behind the scene. Like many families, we juggle the schedules and we make things happen for everyone. Since the beginning, our kids have been a part of it all and they have been able to enjoy themselves along the way like playing soccer and hockey for years. Working as a team, we know that they have learned life and business skills from us as much as we have learned from them on how to take time to have fun.
When you do get some time away from the pharmacy what is a family favourite summer activity?
When we take time off from work, we like to get away so we travel. We have a teenage son and daughter. Both have been golfing and skiing since a young age so we try to find time for these activities as much as possible. On weekends, we enjoy sitting together around a camp fire. So in a nutshell, if we are not at the pharmacy, we are out enjoying life with our kids.
White Cross Dispensary seems to have a set of core values that rest on family, support and care. Is this something you set out for your staff and patients at the beginning?
Caring and supporting are an integral part of this profession. We spend as much time with our staff than we do with our family, so they mean the world to us and we wish them to be happy. There is nothing more pleasant than to walk in and be greeted by someone who is enjoying their day even though they are at work. We do our best to encourage teamwork. Since day one we have had an open-door policy and we encourage everyone to share ideas or concerns in order to improve our services. It’s our tradition to always celebrate birthdays and our Xmas party is a special day every year. We have been able to balance work with a bit of fun and you will see this on occasion in our social media posts.
How does White Cross support the local community?
We support the community on different fronts. On one hand we service and work with local physicians, community health centers, and dental offices to improve the health of patients. Our door is open to anyone with a health problem or concern and being available to this population is how we feel we support this community the most. When mobility is an issue, for example after a hospital discharge, our pharmacists are available to do a home visit to review changes in therapy. Long is the list of services we offer and provide to the community.
On a different front, we presently donate to the Elgin Public School. These funds are used for swimming lessons and other activities that the children would otherwise not have available to them.
What is your favourite part about having a business on Elgin?
It is an honor to be at the corner of Elgin and Somerset. Out of all the streets in Ottawa, none compare to Elgin Street. This street is lined with an impressive variety of locally owned businesses. Walking north from the police station, you will find everything you could possibly need and more. In addition to our pharmacy, you will find the best restaurants, bars, patios, spas, fitness gym, yoga studio, clothing store, book store, kitchen and gift stores, printing services, flower shops, coffee shops, hair salon, dry cleaners, comedy club, hotels, naturopaths, lawyers, architects, physicians, all of this just before reaching City Hall, Court house, Confederation park and the NAC to finally stand before the National War Memorial with the Chateau Laurier in the background overlooking the river with a glimpse of the parliament. Need I say more? YES! Because more impressive than the selection of shops, the history and the buildings are the wonderful people that work, play and live along Elgin Street. If you haven’t been, you need to come and experience it for yourself.