(Town Crier photo/Trent Fletcher)
The year was 1983. Ronald Reagan was President, gasoline was $1.29, and Lou Holtz was the coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks. A lot of things have changed since David Panneck became owner of St. Francis Pharmacy in Lake City.
After almost a quarter of a century, the 65 year old Jonesboro native is passing the torch to his son Brent Panneck, who took over ownership Sept. 1 of this year.
Panneck bought Lake City's only pharmacy from Charlie Taylor, whom he worked for from 1981 until 1983, and has been going strong ever since.
Panneck, a Jonesboro native and JHS graduate, received his bachelor's degree from Arkansas State University before receiving his pharmaceutical degree from the University of Tennessee - Memphis in 1963.
Panneck began his career as a pharmacist in 1963 at Dunn-Lane Pharmacy in Paragould. After one year, he worked at Soo's Pharmacy in Jonesboro from 1964-1965. For the next 10 years, Panneck worked for Stone's Pharmacy in Jonesboro before moving to Central Drug Store from 1975-1980. After a year at Corning, Panneck came back to Stone's Pharmacy and worked until 1981, when he took the job working for Taylor in Lake City.
"It's a lot different being owner rather than being an employee," said Panneck. "When you buy your own pharmacy, you live with it. You're on call 24-7. I was a little nervous at first, but after the first year, I felt like everything was going to be alright."
The building in which the pharmacy is located was owned by Dr. Robert Robbins, who had his own practice in the same building at the time. Panneck entered in a five year lease agreement with Robbins when he first took over.
When Robbins left in 1998, it put a dent in Panneck's business and the veteran pharmacist faced another struggle when the local nursing home was sold in 2000. "I survived both incidents and built the business back up to a stable state," said Panneck. "Things started picking back up last year when the NEA Clinic bought the building and brought in Dr. Kristi Statler. I have also had a couple of break-ins over the years, but nothing major. For the most part, things have been good."
After Panneck bought the business, he had one employee, Jackie Short. When Short left, Betty Sellars came aboard and worked from 1983 until 1994. Lori and Les Goodson worked from 1994 until 1995 and then son Brent did his pre-pharmacy work from 1995 until 1998. Sarah Phillips worked at the pharmacy in 2000 as did Patty Mann, who stayed until 2005. The pharmacy employs two staff members at the current time, Samantha Hale, who has been with the company since 2001, and Rhonda Wright, who was hired in 2004.
The 40-year old Brent Panneck plans on expanding the pharmacy and hopes to build a new establishment near the new four lane highway that is currently under construction. Unlike his father, Brent had planned on a career in aviation. But after working part time at the pharmacy, the younger Panneck decided pharmaceutical work was something he would like to do. "I was working part-time for Dad and liked it and decided I could do it. So I enrolled at Arkansas State University and entered into Pre-Pharmacy," said Panneck.
Panneck received his pharmaceutical degree in 2003 from the University of Arkansas Medical School in Little Rock. Panneck lives in Jonesboro with wife Angela, four year old daughter Brooklyn, and 18 month old son Charleston. He began work as a pharmacist at Walgreen's in Jonesboro where he stayed for eight months before moving to Gibson's Pharmacy in Jonesboro, where he has spent the last two and a half years.
"My goal since pharmacy school has been to come and work with Dad," said Panneck. "I really like the idea of a one pharmacy business. Chain pharmacies were just too robotic and not for me. It's been good working with Dad, yet it's been difficult taking over. Even though ownership has changed, at times the store still feels like it belongs to him. It still feels like Dad's store."
Panneck is in the process of updating all the computer and software equipment. "Dad is staying full-time until at least November, and then he will work a couple of days a week. He will be in enough that people won't miss him. The only thing different is that Dad will be my employee. I have changed the lay-out somewhat and have tried to give it a fresher appearance. I would eventually like to purchase property on Highway 18 and build a new facility. That's my long term goal. Hopefully, I can be here 25 years just like Dad. I am changing a few things but it will still basically be the same family store it has always been," said Panneck.
The elder Panneck, who also resides in Jonesboro, with wife Linda, talked about some of the changes that have occurred over the years. "I had always used a manual typewriter. After I took over the business, I purchased my first electric typewriter. That was a big improvement at the time. In 1991, Medicare made me put in a computer, and I still have the same one today, although it has been upgraded," laughed Panneck.
Panneck estimates the business has 250 base customers. "I've had a lot of the same customers over the last 25 years. Two of my first customers were Bob Ridge and the late Paul Owens," said Panneck.
Panneck's plans for retirement include playing golf. "Retirement always comes at the wrong end of life. I'm just hoping my body will allow me to enjoy it," chuckled Panneck. When asked what other things he plans on doing, Panneck laughed and said, "Stay away from home. My wife has too many things planned for me." Panneck also plans on spending time with his two young grandchildren. He and Linda also have a daughter, Veronica, who lives in Florida. The Pannecks also enjoy attending Razorback football and basketball games.
Panneck said he would change nothing from the last 25 years. "I have done okay. I had always worked for the other guy and didn't know much about money. I have made more money here than at any other place I worked, but things cost a lot more too," stated Panneck.
"I have been fortunate to have good employees and I have loved working with my customers," concluded Panneck.
"David is just a sweetheart," said employee Rhonda Wright. "You just can't beat David."
The store hours will continue to be from 9-6 Monday through Friday, and from 9-12 on Saturdays.