January 21, 2020

Orono Pharmacy celebrates despite ‘tough year’

ORONO – Despite tough economic times, business at the Orono Pharmacy remains strong as the store celebrates its fourth anniversary today.

“It’s been a tough year or so, but we’re here,” owner Ali Aghamoosa said Monday. “We’re strong and we’re standing. We’re here as long as we can keep our head above water.”

Aghamoosa opened the Orono Pharmacy after Rite Aid, the only drug store in town, vacated the building in 1999. When he came to Maine from Texas to open the business, Aghamoosa had high expectations, which he admits haven’t been met yet.

“I wasn’t anticipating people going to Canada to get their medications,” he said.

Aghamoosa said he thought there would be another pharmacist working at the store by now. The Orono pharmacy has two full-time and three part-time employees in addition to Aghamoosa, who runs the pharmacy side of the operation. He hopes to hire another pharmacist within the next year.

“I have to readjust my expectations,” Aghamoosa said. “But nevertheless, we are strong and we are getting stronger every day. It may take a couple of years for [the business] to be where I thought it would be by now.”

Aghamoosa currently fills an average of 90 to 100 prescriptions a day, which is a lot for one person. But he said he would like to push that number up to 130 or 140 prescriptions a day to justify hiring another pharmacist.

“There’s a lot more potential, because other pharmacies in the area definitely do a lot more than 100 prescriptions per day,” he said.

Aghamoosa prides himself in taking care of the needs of individual customers. The store is known for its prompt service – customers receive their prescriptions as soon as they bring them in – and free delivery service.

“We try to be as accommodating as possible to our customers and deliver to them if they don’t want to get out of the house,” Aghamoosa said. “We go beyond the call of duty, definitely, when the need arises.”

He remembers one occasion last winter when he shut the store down to go to the customer’s house because the customer was very ill and the snowbanks were too high for them to get out of their home.

“We want to make sure the community realizes we are here for them,” Aghamoosa said. The Orono Pharmacy has increased the volume of merchandise it offers, but still does not sell alcohol or cigarettes.

“It’s not the best business decision in a college town, but one needs to stick to their guns and respect their principles,” said Aghamoosa, a Muslim born in Tehran, who is prohibited by his religion to make such sales.

He knows selling such items would increase profits, but doesn’t believe they have a place in the pharmacy.

The store, however, does offer an ice cream parlor and soda fountain.

“If you’re brave enough to eat ice cream in the wintertime, then come on down,” he said.

The pharmacy’s fourth anniversary is more of a celebration of the community than the store, according to Aghamoosa. Residents are invited to visit the store today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for snacks and a time to socialize.

“They can take a break during the day and be happy and see what we have done,” Aghamoosa said. The owner said he hopes to continue his business for years to come while serving the Orono community.

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