Shopko Express pharmacy in Port to close, be sold

Company that said it would keep apothecary open instead will auction drug business after filing for bankruptcy

WHILE THERE ARE currently no plans for the Shopko Express store in Port Washington to close, the pharmacy will be closing as part of the retailer’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring, a Shopko spokesman said Tuesday. Shopko is selling its pharmacies in an auction that was slated to begin on Wednesday, Jan. 23, she said. Photo by Bill Schanen IV
Ozaukee Press staff

For the second time in the last year, Port Washington is facing the loss of a cornerstone business with the announcement that Shopko Express is closing its Port pharmacy.

“As mayor, I am not happy,” Mayor Marty Becker said, noting that communities are defined, in part, by the fact they have a pharmacy, grocery, hardware store, church and schools. “I feel bad for the people losing their jobs and for the customers — they weren’t just customers, they were friends.

“This is sad. It’s a cornerstone of the community that’s being lost.” 

Becker, who is a pharmacist at Shopko Express, said employees learned on Thursday, Jan. 17 the pharmacy would be closing — days after they had been told it would remain open.

“On Thursday morning, it all changed,” he said.

Shopko spokesman Michelle Hansen, who last week told Ozaukee Press that the Shopko Express pharmacy in Port would remain open, said Tuesday, “As part of the Shopko Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring, we are completely getting out of the pharmacy business.”

No closing date has been set, she added.

Hansen said the individual pharmacies would be put up for auction beginning Wednesday, Jan. 23, and the hope is that a buyer will be able to service local customers.

“We’re hoping they (prospective bidders) will bid on pharmacies based on their location and they would be willing to service our customers,” she said. 

After the auction, the corporation hopes to be able to notify people where their prescriptions will be transferred, Hansen said, adding she is not sure how long the auction will run. 

In the interim, she added, the pharmacy is open for business.

Hansen noted that there are no plans to close the rest of the store.

“For now, the Shopko Express will continue to serve our customers,” she said.

This is the second time in a year Port is facing the loss of a major retail business.

Last year, Port Washington’s only grocery store, Sanfillippo Sentry, closed its doors when the owners retired. That void was filled five months later when Fox Bros. Piggly Wiggly opened in its place.

While Shopko Express is closing its pharmacy, Aurora is planning to open a pharmacy at its east clinic, 1475 W. Grand Ave., in Port on Monday, Feb. 4.
  “That’s important for the community,” Becker said. “There will be somewhere in the city where residents can get their prescriptions filled.”

It’s a significant loss for the community, which once had two pharmacies in its downtown and others on the north and west sides of town.

But the loss of the Shopko Express pharmacy is especially poignant for Becker, who was an owner and founder of Port Apothecary, which was bought by Shopko 15 years ago.

Becker was working for Walgreens in Waukesha when he got a call from a group wanting to open an area pharmacy. He and pharmacist Steve Ziebell, along with three other partners, opened the Saukville Apothecary and the Port Apothecary.

Ziebell ran the Saukville pharmacy while Becker ran the Port operation. Ziebell joined him there after the Saukville business closed three or four years later, Becker said.

“The whole idea was to provide cards and gifts and liquor,” he said. “If you needed a gift, you knew you could buy one there for $5 to $100. If you needed a card, we had a great line of cards for every occasion. And we had competitive liquor prices.

“We had a pharmacy, but we didn’t expect everyone to bring in their prescription right away. We knew people were loyal to their pharmacy and pharmacist. We gave it time, and we built up the prescription base.”

The key to their success, he said, was simple — “We offered good service and we got involved in the community.”

In 2004, the majority owner of the business wanted to sell Port Apothecary, Becker said, and Shopko purchased it. He stayed on in the pharmacy.

Becker said that if the city had known the pharmacy was going to close earlier, it could have tried to find someone to buy the business. But the timing, along with the fact that Shopko is in bankruptcy, prevented that.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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