Great employees plus loyal customers equals a winning combination –
By Patricia Beech –
The Ohio Pharmacists Association (OPA) recently awarded a Life Member Award to C. Robert (Bob) Blake, owner of Blake’s Pharmacy, for distinguished and long term service to pharmacy and the OPA.
The award was presented at the OPA’s 140th Annual Conference held April 20-22 in Columbus.
Blake says he was overwhelmed when he learned about the award.
“It was such a surprise,” he says. “I never dreamed when I was peddling newspapers that I’d have the opportunities I’ve had as a pharmacist.”
Blake has also been very politically active, both locally and nationally. He has attended nearly every NCPA Legislative Conference in Washington, leading pharmacists as they approached Ohio legislators on Capitol Hill. Today, he is still a recognized pharmacist among political leaders.
“It is an easy task to recognize Bob Blake’s outstanding contributions to pharmacy . His dedication to the profession is evident through his many years of involvement with OPA, NCPA, and the University of Cincinnati, as well as his advocacy for the profession of pharmacy,” said Ernest Boyd, OPA Executive Director.
Established in 1879, the OPA represents more than 4,000 pharmacists, pharmacy educators and pharmacy students throughout the state. The organization encourages professional unity among Ohio’s pharmacists, while promoting public health through education, discussion, and legislation.
Blake led the OPA as President from 1986-1987, and later went on to serve as President of the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).
He says serving as president positioned him to meet pharmacists from across Ohio and around the world. An experience he values highly.
“I met a group of English-speaking pharmacists from England, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa, and it was interesting to hear their problems and to get a take on what’s going on all over the world,” he says. “They’re folks just like us, they really enjoy helping people. It makes you proud to be a pharmacist.”
A lifetime native of Adams County, Blake was born on a farm near Seaman in 1936. He says he hasn’t strayed far from his roots.
“I was in Cincinnati five years going to pharmaceutical school, then I worked for a year with the gentleman who trained me,” he said. “I had to take a cut in pay from $1 an hour to 50 cents an hour, but it was worth it – I got the training to go into a great profession and to travel all over the country.”
After graduating from the University of Cincinnati College of Pharmacy, Blake purchased his first pharmacy in 1961 on the corner of Main and Market Streets in West Union. In the coming years he also opened stores in both Manchester and Peebles.
Blake’s Pharmacy on Courthouse Square is widely known for its excellent care of patients, as well as its historical soda fountain, which is still in working order.
Blake credits his customers and his employees for the store’s success.
“I’ve had great employees, including two pharmacists who have worked with me for over 50 years, and a number of staff that have been with us over 40 years.”
“I always try to treat them exactly as I would want to be treated if I were working,” Blake continued. “We also get great support and loyalty from customers and the community and that’s whats helped us to last as long as we have. A lot of wonderful people come into the store, and we do our best to help them.”
For Blake and his staff that’s a 24/7 promise – they’ve all gone in after hours to fill prescriptions for customers in need..
“They appreciate that,” he says. “It’s the proper thing to do anyway, whether it’s appreciated or not.”
Blake has also mentored many young pharmacists, and says he believes there is still a future for rural pharmacies.
“The pendulum always swings one way or the other,” he says. “ I think in the years to come, it will swing back in favor of small independent pharmacies.”
When the pendulum does swing back, Blake and his family are positioned to continue operating for another five decades.
His son Bob and granddaughter Kelly are both pharmacists working in the West Union store.
“I always say my wife raised four pharmacists, myself and our three children.”
At age 82, Blake says he’s working on retirement, but still enjoys visiting the store.
“Stores are just like children, you just can’t let go of them,” he says. “I’m probably more on the road now than I am a help, but I still like to go around and meet the customers who have been coming in for 30 and 40 years, to see how they’re doing. They’re great friends, they’ve always got a smile for you, and that really makes life worthwhile.”