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Letterkenny institution celebrates ninety years

Ann McGinley, Anna Doherty, Duncan Doherty, Margaret Martin and Eileen Lafferty

Gerard McCormick, Magee’s Pharmacy.


NINETY years ago, Magees Pharmacy opened its doors for the first time at 21 Upper Main Street in Letterkenny. Founded by Leo Magee in 1928, the pharmacy initially employed men only in a premises that most recently housed CK Locksmiths.
In 1954 the late Mrs Kathleen Quinn took over the premises before the late Jim McCormick took over in 1966. Two years later he relocated in Magee’s existing premises at 27 Upper Main Street, a premises which once housed Vaughan’s gift shop.
Over the years, Magees has grown to become a central part of the community and has continued to play a crucial role in the everyday lives of the locals ever since.
Gerard McCormick now runs the business, having taken over from his late father in 2006. In recent months he has overseen a total refurbishment of the shop to suit the needs of a modern day pharmacy.
The floor-space has been increased by fifty per-cent which includes a new state-of-the-art computerised dispensary management system, part of which is now housed at 21 Upper Main Street – to the rear of the original Magees Chemist site.
The outcome of the latest transformation is encouraging news for smaller retailers and retail service outlets facing increased competition from the chain stores. Not only has the pharmacy’s turnover increased, the redesigned store has attracted top pharmaceutical company executives to Letterkenny to see the results of the revamp.
He attributes his success to his father, who gave him the inspiration to do something totally new and different every day.
“I’ve been involved in a family-run business since day one. We used to live above the shop and we were continuously reminded about the importance of building and maintaining a loyal customer base.
“We make it our business to get to know each and every one of our customers, and in many cases we get to know family members from generation to generation,” he said.
A memory wall, incorporating a time-line of major events over the past ninety years has been put in place ahead of the 90th Customer Celebration Day which will take place on Wednesday next, July 25.
“Dad had been working in Lifford when Dr Quinn rang him to say that his wife Kathleen was selling the business and asked did he want to take over. Dad told Dr Quinn that he had no money but Dr Quinn said that wouldn’t be a problem and that they would sort something out so he bought it on credit.
‘He bought the good will and stock as the business was in a rented property at the time. He eventually bought the building two doors down and that’s where Magees has been operating ever since.
“More recently, we got the opportunity to buy the site where Magees started all those years ago and the lands attached to that building now house our new extension out the back. We’ve turned full circle.”
As part of the extension Magees have developed a computerised dispensing system which reduces the time needed to dispense medicines.
“Our original dispensary was housed in a very small area. Modern practice demands more space but the need to move the dispensary became a huge job as it had become the nerve centre of the old building. We had to strip it apart while continuing to keep the shop open at all times. It was a testing time,” he said.
“My dad and I had talked about introducing an automated system eight years ago. We had discussed getting a robot and looked at different options but, ironically, we didn’t have the room so we walked away.
“When we set about the most recent refurbishment the idea was still there so we visited a number of sites and put our heads together before going ahead with the new computerised dispensing system.
“It was a big investment but a correct one. Computers don’t make mistakes so it’s safer while it’s also more efficient at busy periods,” he said.
“We wanted people to see the new robot. It’s a little bit of theatre but it’s also part of who we are. We’re not a chain. We’re a family business and we’ve a story to tell – that’s what the new shop is about – creating our own identity,” he added.
Employing a staff of thirty Magees offers a top of the range service to all its customers.
“There’s nine, maybe ten, other chemists in Letterkenny and it’s all about trying to stay ahead of the curve. Dad always taught me that it’s about giving the customers what they want without them knowing it and without talking about it. You just do it,” he said.
“I would also like to thank our customers as, without them, we would be nowhere. Hopefully we’re now giving them a better, more comfortable experience and one that will see our business into the future. We can’t stand still. Every year we try and move the business forward.

Staff at Magees Pharmacy

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