New owner at Gladbrook pharmacy

Derek Townsend, PharmD took over ownership of Gladbrook Family Pharmacy and Medicap Pharmacy in Toledo on Jan. 1. Retiring owner Tim Madsen had owned the Toledo business since 2000 and the Gladbrook location since 2018. Darvin Graham/Sun Courier

Two of Tama County’s four retail pharmacies have recently welcomed new ownership.

Gladbrook Family Pharmacy and Medicap Pharmacy in Toledo were recently sold on Jan. 1 to Derek Townsend, PharmD. Townsend has been working as a pharmacist for both the Gladbrook and Toledo locations for the past six and a half years.

Former owner Tim Madsen has retired from the business after owning and operating the Medicap Pharmacy in Toledo since 2000 as well as the pharmacy in Gladbrook which was built and opened in 2018.

Madsen plans to continue to work at the pharmacy on a limited basis and will be a resource for Townsend as he takes on his first venture as a small business owner.

“I’m thankful to local pharmacists like Tim, Scott Strommer and the Doyle family who have kept locally owned pharmacies going in this community,” Townsend said. “I’m just looking to do my part and to keep things going for the next generation.”

Townsend has felt at home working in a small town pharmacy as he believes the independent nature of his business, compared to a corporate entity like a grocery store or a big box retailer, allows him to be more flexible and to make adjustments within his business without as much red tape to contend with.

Townsend grew up in Perry, Iowa, and attended Central College in Pella. While at Central, he participated in basketball, cross country and track, majored in chemistry and met his wife Amy (Ledvina) Townsend.

After working for Pioneer for a year and a half, Derek decided to go back to school at the University of Iowa and get his Doctorate in Pharmacy. Currently, he and his wife Amy and their three children live in an acreage just south of Chelsea.

He credits his upbringing in a household where his mother was a nurse and his father a preacher and then a small business owner in the insurance industry, for inspiring his journey toward a career in a retail pharmacy.

Townsend said he was drawn to retail business partly because he enjoys the challenge of engineering workflows and finding new and creative ways to improve efficiency so that business can grow.

Townsend also holds a deep Christian faith and said his faith in God has played a large role within his career as well as in his decision making to pursue this business.

He noted a particular instance when he and his wife suffered the loss of a daughter who died as an infant two years after Townsend began as a pharmacist at Medicap, and how his family felt the support of the community around them at that time.

“The outpouring of love and support my wife and I received from this community will never be forgotten and I will do everything I can to pay this community back for helping us during that difficult time.”

Townsend officially took over ownership on Jan. 1 and has continued with the same staff, hours and services previously offered under Madsen’s ownership. He said one of the driving factors behind his decision to take the leap and buy the business was to help protect the jobs of the staff members he’s worked alongside for the past six years.

“I think I have the best staff on the planet,” Townsend said.

Medicap Pharmacy employs roughly 20 individuals between the Toledo and Gladbrook locations including seven pharmacy technicians and three people training to become technicians.

Townsend says the time has never been better to consider pharmacy tech work as a career.

With the proliferation of telehealth in rural communities around Iowa, those entering the pharmacy technician field have been able to advance quickly and gain a good amount of autonomy and ability to provide services to clients.

The retail pharmacy landscape in Tama County has been competitive despite the rural area also being considered medically underserved. Medicap has long had a competitor across the street at what is now the Dollar Fresh grocery store.

Their business also competes with mail-order prescription services and shares part of a footprint with the pharmacy at the Meskwaki Tribal Health Center that serves the Meskwaki Settlement community as well as workers employed by the Tribe.

2020 proved to be a challenging year for the pharmacy who, along with countless other businesses and individuals in the area, experienced the disruption and destruction of the derecho storm in August compounded on top of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Townsend, the demand for mental health medication has increased this year as people have dealt with the unique challenges that the pandemic has offered. The use of Medicap’s delivery service has also increased three-fold this year as people have been less inclined or able to get out and about.

Traffic overall has ebbed and flowed in unusual ways this year. During the first four to six weeks of the pandemic, Townsend recalls customers flooding the pharmacy with requests for larger quantities of their medications given the unknown potential for prolonged shutdowns.

Early summer brought about the opposite effect with much slower traffic and less demand for medications.

Townsend said the business traffic has largely leveled out as the pharmacy is now preparing for the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Once larger quantities of the vaccine are made available, pharmacies like Medicap plan to partner with Tama County Public Health in offering the vaccine similar to the way in which they have offered flu shots and flu shot clinics in the past.

Townsend expects Medicap to utilize their drive-up service as a major tool in helping to deliver the vaccine.

From March to September of last year Medicap in Toledo operated a drive-thru only business. During that time they took what was a storage area along the east wall of the building and installed a second drive-thru window to help accommodate social distance guidelines.

Townsend is optimistic about the future of his pharmacy businesses and is just happy to have the opportunity to make someone’s day better.

Gladbrook Family Pharmacy is located at 307 2nd St. in Gladbrook and has been serving the community since 2018.