Pharmacy's story shows what it takes

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Pharmacy's story shows what it takes

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Published Tuesday, December 2, 2008 in The Beaufort Gazette  |  701 Words  |  opinions

Beaufort turned a page in its history when Aimar's Pharmacy on Ribaut Road closed, its files and stock sold to the Rite-Aid chain in October.
It's an instructive story in times of change.
Charles S. Aimar Sr. opened the business on Carteret Street in 1952. He had $300 in hand, the money he cleared from selling his baby blue Chevrolet. That's all the capital Aimar needed to open shop in the town where he was reared, and where his father, William Washington Aimar, operated the Enterprise Ice Co.
The younger Aimar was in the Beaufort High Class of 1942 with some other folks you might recognize -- Charles "Chink" Haigh, Neil Trask Sr., James Adams and Charlie Webb. He served his country as a Marine at Iwo Jima, then married his childhood sweetheart, Jeanne Sams, nearly 61 years ago.
Now 84 and ready for retirement, Aimar still remembers with great relief how fast his business took off when he rented space in a new building put up by Johnny Horne, who owned the Ford dealership on Bay Street.
The grand opening featured banana splits and fountain drinks for 9 cents. Aimar had small orchids flown in from Hawaii to give to the ladies. His first of countless prescriptions was filled for the late Flora Trask and her husband, John, whose children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren still live in town.
Aimar found himself working so late that week he couldn't make a bank deposit. His father told him that was no way to run a business when he pulled up the top of his son's roll-top desk and money fell on the floor.
Eventually, with his brother Neal Aimar and brother-in-law, Malcolm Goodwin, the Aimars would operate three pharmacies and do 75 percent of the prescription drug business in Beaufort County.
But for some time, the independents have been up against deeper pockets, and Aimar ended up with one store that clung stubbornly to its niche: personal attention, limited deliveries, charge accounts and other means of providing personal service for the special needs of customers.
The drug business has been turned upside down since Aimar opened shop, but he said the principles of success are the same.
"Commitment" is the first word out of Aimar's mouth when he talks about what it takes to survive as a small business.
"You have to be a good businessman, you have to have the personality to get along with your employees and patients and customers," he said. "But you just have to be committed to the sacrifice it will take for you and for your family."
On the flip side, owning a business offers a sense of freedom. It can unshackle you as an individual, he said.
"What a lot of young people don't understand today is that you have the freedom to do it, but you're going to pay the price for whatever it is you have chosen to do. They don't believe you have to pay for something."
Aimar said his ideology -- as a pioneer in the renewal of the Republican Party in Beaufort County and as an instigator of private schools in the 1960s -- cost him business.
But he steps away from a lifetime of compounding prescriptions by hand to say that Beaufort needs what only independent businesses can offer. It needs the economic boost, but it also needs the commitment of time and resources that the local independents offer through their civic clubs, schools, volunteer fire departments -- and all the human interactions when people need help.
"Independents provide slack in the community," Aimar said. "They will hire people who are borderline and a lot of times make great people out of borderline people. It's the same with extending credit. They can trust others as human beings. They fill a real need."
Now Aimar's son Charles Jr. and his wife, Ginger, own the Rossignol's store on Bay Street. Charles and Jeanne Aimar hope to do some traveling, camping and flying.
The story of Aimar's Pharmacy can live on if local businesses and local residents, generation after generation, stay committed to the task and to one another.