NEW HAVEN, W.Va. — Longtime pharmacist and businessman Dan Riggs filled his last prescription recently as the owner of Health Aid Pharmacy in New Haven, W.Va.
Riggs, along with wife Cathy, owned the Bend Area pharmacy for the past 34 years. He officially retired in the last two weeks, and last Tuesday signed the paperwork to sell the business, which will remain open.
Riggs began his pharmacy career in 1976 after graduating from Ohio State University. He and Cathy moved to Middleport, Ohio, because it was halfway between their parents, who lived in South Point, Ohio, and Rainelle, W.Va.
He spent the next seven years as a pharmacist at Dutton Drug Store in Middleport. Riggs said after working there a while, Mr. Dutton would put him in charge when he went south for the winter. It was then, Riggs said, that he knew he wanted to own a business himself.
That opportunity came in August 1983, when he learned Health Aid Pharmacy was for sale. Dan and Cathy purchased the pharmacy and later made the move to New Haven in 1986.
Part pharmacy and part retail, the store offers everything from medicines and medical supplies, to greeting cards, party and school supplies, gifts, and floral items. In 1990, the couple bought the property next door and built on, doubling the size of the retail operation.
Over the years, Riggs said he has seen many changes. When he first bought the pharmacy, patient profiles were kept in a box on paper cards. When a person came in for medicine, he had to locate their card, write down the prescription or refill, hand type a label, and bill the insurance company by hand.
Computers changed all that, Riggs said, and with the technology came more efficiency, more prescriptions coming through, and additional insurance companies to bill.
Even with automation, however, the pharmacy has always kept its small-town, independent touch. Riggs often counsels people about their conditions and medications, such as diabetes, and is always on the lookout for coupons or offers to save his customers money. Health Aid has always had a delivery service, as well as allowing customers to have charge accounts.
As the only independent pharmacy remaining in Mason County, the employees at the store are more like family, according to Riggs. Employee Connie Bumgarner has been at the store the entire 34 years Riggs has owned it. Other employees have been there for 14, 18, 26 and 27 years. Birthday potluck dinners were the norm throughout the decades.
Dan and Cathy raised four children in New Haven while owning the pharmacy. He said the loyalty of the Bend Area residents has been amazing, even allowing him to remain open after Walmart located in Mason.
“I’m very thankful for that,” he added.
And Riggs said it is the people that he will miss most by not being at the pharmacy daily. Seeing his customers on a regular basis, buying animals from 4-H’ers at the Mason County Fair, and taking part in providing scholarships to Wahama High School seniors are all things he noted he will miss as a business owner.
Riggs said he was always told by his father to find a job he enjoyed doing, and added the Lord helped him in doing that.
In fact, it was God that Riggs said he turned to when deciding to retire and sell the business. He prayed for two things, he said. One was that he could find a buyer who would keep the pharmacy open in New Haven, and the other was that his employees could stay.
Riggs found both in new owner Ed Zatta, who purchased the business on Tuesday. Zatta is also an independent pharmacy owner who has Swisher and Lohse Pharmacy in Pomeroy, Ohio, as well as others in Athens, Ohio and Ripley, W.Va.
As for the future, the first thing Dan and Cathy said they plan to do is spend more time with their grandkids. While they will remain in New Haven, the couple said they plan to travel, taking an Alaskan cruise at some point, and visiting faraway friends. Volunteering is also on their retirement to-do list.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.