More than your neighborhood pharmacy…
The vintage neon sign for Elmore Pharmacy that hangs at Walnut and Washington streets in downtown Red Bluff is almost as iconic to the town as any of its signature locations. Bianca Bradshaw, pharmacist and owner since 2014, knows just how important it is and holds tight to its legacy.
“The way I view my ownership of Elmore Pharmacy is that I’m a steward of a piece of Red Bluff history,” she says. Indeed, the McCloud native inherited an extensive treasure trove of artifacts and antiques when she took over the business that has been in town for more than a century.
“I traced the origins of Elmore’s to a pharmacist back to 1861,” she says of the hours scouring old newspapers researching her shop. Elmore Pharmacy has been in its current location since 1906.
One of the first things Bradshaw did when she took over was clear some shelves to display the artifacts she found throughout the building – everything from antique bottles to a vintage copy of “Remington: The Science and Practice of Pharmacy” to a Delft tile featuring an apothecary.
“After I set up the display, I had a patient who brought in an Elmore label from a bottle found in the wall of her house during a remodel. I went downstairs and found the original prescription for it from 1923,” she marvels. “It was one of those days that really gives you chills as a pharmacist.”
Interactions like these are the joys and rewards of taking her role of steward seriously. The display, she says, “created new chains of relationships that I might not have had.”
It seems fitting, then, that the pharmacy has come into the hands of someone who knew she wanted to be a pharmacist from the age of 5 and did what it took to make that dream come true. “Somebody told me I should be a pharmacist so I could have horses,” she says with a laugh. Her five-year-old brain held on to the notion and she went straight to University of the Pacific for pharmacy school upon graduating from McCloud High School in 1998. She doesn’t have horses, but she does sit on the UOP Alumni Board. And she enjoys plenty of benefits from her chosen profession.
“It’s all about the people,” she says. “The staff we have working here are amazing at what they do. They do the job so I can take more time with the customers.” For Bradshaw, preserving the history of Elmore’s is about more than a display of antiques; it’s about listening to customers and serving them holistically. “It wasn’t that long ago that pharmacy wasn’t as high tech as it is today,” she says. “Fortunately, here I can take time to talk to people.”
Bradshaw is currently in a two-year functional medicine certification program that will allow her to expand to homeopathic and other remedies, such as aromatherapy. “You don’t want to throw a pill at everything,” she says. “I’m looking to build advanced pharmacy practices that have a focus on functional medicine. It’s about the patient. It’s in my best interest to find what they need and help them.”
If a person needs a little retail therapy, Elmore’s also happens to be a beloved gift store, as well. “I had no idea how much fun the gift store would be and how it could fill a need for the community,” Bradshaw says. The store is known for going all out at the holidays and has become popular for its Christmas tree ornaments. “I went on a mission that I would find various crosses to speak to a bunch of people,” she says. “Now it’s a tradition.” In her second year of shopping for the gift store, she added crosses for firefighters, which became a big hit. “We had had a lot of fires,” she says.
The store continues its decades-old tradition of free gift wrap, with staff challenged to produce impeccable work using only three pieces of tape, a standard set by a now-retired employee. It can intimidate new employees. “It’s not uncommon that I’ll get done with a couple of prescriptions and then run down to wrap presents,” Bradshaw says. It’s all part of that old-fashioned service she wants to carry on.
As for the sign – in late March 2017 it was blown down in a windstorm, leaving the corner empty and residents bereft. “When it came down people asked what they could do,” says Bradshaw. After a little over a year, it was returned to its rightful place. “The sign is not only back where it belongs, but its refurbished and lights up at night.”
“I went to pharmacy school to be there for people,” says Bradshaw. At Elmore Pharmacy, she’s found many ways to contribute. “I love the town that I live in that I call home,” she adds. “I love the community.”•
Elmore Pharmacy • 401 Walnut Street, Red Bluff • (530) 527-4636