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A coffee with…

Bob Reynolds

Rob Prior and Phil Mortimer recently caught up with Bob Reynolds to learn more about his history in the pharmacy industry.

First, please tell me a bit about your history Bob  

I was born in Midland in 1941.  My father worked for the railway and he was later stationed at Muchea.  When I was about 12 years old, dad was transferred to Mogumber so I went to school in New Norcia.  Dad later worked for the Neptune Oil Company, which is now part of Shell, in Moora and then later worked for them in Perth.

One of my earliest memories of a pharmacy was being sent to the Moora chemist by my mother to get Ipana toothpaste, which you could only buy there.  I made friends with the pharmacist during my visits.

The first pharmacy I managed was in Piccadilly Arcade in Perth.  It was a small shop that served people on the street.  I then moved from Perth to Sydney and worked in Marrickville, which back then was full of Italian and Greek immigrants.  The shop I worked for was owned by a Greek widow.  Though she wasn’t a chemist herself, her late husband was, but she was allowed to continue to operate the pharmacy back then.  You can’t do this anymore. 

It was in Sydney that I meet my now wife, Elaine.  She was a hostess with Ansett based in Melbourne.  So, I moved to Melbourne and worked for a pharmacy on the corner of Elizabeth and Lonsdale Streets in the city.  The building in which I worked, also housed a restaurant upstairs which was owned by the family who owned Wynns Wines.  The toilets were upstairs near the restaurant, so I would go up stairs “to the toilet” when the waiters were tidying up from lunch at around 3pm and they would give me a taste from any the unfinished bottles. This is where I started to develop my current love of wine.

Elaine and I later moved back to Perth to get married.  I ended up managing a pharmacy in Victoria Park.  I was looking to buy Stone’s Drug Store there, but it didn’t eventuate.  A pharmacy then came up for sale in Albany - so we drove down here to have a look.  We had never been to Albany before then. The pharmacy was the Town Hall Pharmacy, which is now where the Noodlers shop on York Street is.  That was back in 1968.  My business partner was George Clarke and together we also bought Turner’s Pharmacy, which is now the Amcal Pharmacy on York Street.  Coles actually used to be where the Amcal Pharmacy now is! After this, we then also bought Hacienda together.  We set up a ‘Chem Care Chemists Cares for You’ as our business model for each of these three pharmacies. 

George and my needs started to change, particularly when my sons came along. We realised we were not working as a team any longer and things needed to change, so we decided to split the pharmacies between us.  I am pleased to say that never a cross word was said between us at all during this process.

I was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1991.  I was in Royal Perth Hospital and had chemotherapy for 6 months.  They had to bank some of my bone marrow. A few years later, I had a relapse. They were able to use my stored bone marrow as part of my treatment, which saved my life.  During my time in hospital I was in isolation and not allowed to see with anyone.  I learnt a lot about myself in that time.  Friends could call me at least by phone, which I appreciated greatly.  From then on, I never hesitate to contact friends to show them I am thinking of them.

What got you in to the pharmacy industry in the first place.

My strength at school was maths. I was interested in chemistry, but it wasn’t a strong subject of mine.  But back then you could complete your leaving exams and then study at university or take a pharmacy exam and get straight into studying pharmacy from there without doing your ‘leavers’.  What I really liked about being a pharmacist was I could be my own boss, which was a real attraction.

How has the role of the pharmacist changed over your career?

We no longer do any compounding, mixing up various treatments ourselves.  I remember in the early days in Albany preparing medicine for a client for her sick turkey.  I’m not sure if it worked or not, but she did become a long-term customer.  So looking after your customers was important back then, just as it is now.  We now dispense flu needles and have more interaction with counselling clients. But generally, there haven’t been a lot of changes in the role of a pharmacist.

What makes the difference between a good and an average pharmacist?

A pharmacist is a person of privilege.  They are in a position of trust.  But they need to show an effort towards the customer and be honest in their dealings with them. 

I once read a good book on retailing and what I got from this was you needed to be flexible, deliver and be pleasant.  Also I found happy staff means happy customers so you need to keep your staff enjoying their job.

How do you manage ownership of multiple businesses in different locations around Australia?

My son, Simon Reynolds, got into pharmacy as well. He told a story recently at a pharmacy conference that he initially became interested in pharmacy from sitting in the back of our old blue Volvo as a kid and listening to his Mum and Dad talk about their work and business.  Simon formed a group called Pharmacy Alliance, and through this group I have been able to expand and manage pharmacies across the country.

And what are you up to now?

I’m still interested in pharmacy and still involved in some ways.  Though these days we do a lot of travelling….and I do like a good wine.

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