Mar 20, 2012 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
A few miles outside of Skaneateles, down Route 41 towards Borodino, there’s a modern store with an old-fashioned twist: a country general store that offers great food, various groceries and gift items, and a specialty pharmacy that is akin to an old-time apothecary shop where drug prescriptions can be made to order on site.
This latter service is one of the only compounding pharmacies in the Syracuse area, and its personal customer service, as well as its ability to make prescriptions for doctors and patients in compounds, amounts and forms that may be unavailable elsewhere, has proven to be a valuable resource to the community it serves and the business owners who offer it.
Vernak Farms Country Store and Pharmacy, at 1889 E. Lake Road in Skaneateles, is a family-owned business that opened in 2006 with a few grocery items and an ice cream counter. Owners Chris and Charlene Vernak came to the Spafford-Skaneateles area because they not only wanted to raise their kids in a great town and open a business, but to be with their kids while they ran the business.
Through the years, Vernak Farms has expanded to offer deli sandwiches, then panninis, then fried foods and pizza.
“We are best known for our pizza and subs,” said owner Chris Vernak, who also functions as store manager. “Friday nights are crazy, especially in the summer.”
In addition to the growth of the deli and food offerings, the store has increased its grocery items to include everyday needs and necessities, especially camp items for summer visitors, as well as local and gift items such as homemade soaps, herbs and spices and candles.
“To me a real country store supplies a mish-mash of everything,” said owner Charlene Vernak, a trained and licensed pharmacist who runs the on-site pharmacy. “We’re different. I don’t think we fit the typical retail model. Our store has evolved a lot, and that’s the one thing we hear the most from our customers.”
But the real growth from size, reputation and income perspectives has been the specialty pharmacy, the Vernaks said.
As a specialty, compounding pharmacy, Vernak Farms sells not only typical retail medications offered by regular pharmacies, but also is able to offer specially-made medications. Pharmacist Charlene Vernak works directly with the doctors and the patients to tailor medications to a patient’s specific needs.
If a patient cannot tolerate certain drugs, needs a special combination of different medications, certain forms or strength of medications, Vernak can make, or “compound,” whatever is needed herself in her pharmacy.
“Everything we do is individualized, is custom,” she said. “The benefits of this is that the medication can often have a more immediate effect, or have less side effects because it is specific to what a patient needs.”
Another benefit is that if a medication is no longer produced for retail or is on back-order due to a drug shortage, Vernak Farms can make the prescription on site, and therefore the patient can receive their medication on time.
“I’ve been using compounding pharmacies for years, and [Vernak Farms] has been really helpful to us,” said Dr. James Farrell of Westside Podiatry Center in Skaneateles. “They can combine the medications we want to use. It’s often a lot safer, being less systemic and more localized, and with less side effects. It’s a good alternative for a lot of people.”
Farrell said Vernak Farms is one of only three compounding pharmacies he is aware of in the entire Syracuse area, and Charlene Vernak also has been helpful in recommending to him products that he did not even know existed.
“There’s a whole world of problems we can cover with her [compounding] help. It’s convenient, it’s local — and they make really good pizza, which is a nice little bonus,” Farrell said.
November 2011 was the one-year anniversary of the opening of the Vernak Farms Pharmacy. What started as two small work stations has now expanded to a significant section in the back of the store, with renovations to the current space expected to start soon, Charlene Vernak said.
The pharmacy has in fact become the main business of Vernak Farms, and the “greatest opportunity” for growth, she said.
With the onset of spring and the coming of summer, the Vernaks are looking forward to a busy 2012, they said.
Starting Memorial Day, the store’s summer hours will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., a change from their previous 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. summer hours.
For more information on Vernak Farms Country Store and Pharmacy, go to their Facebook page, or visit their website, which will be coming online in the coming weeks.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.