Hayek's supplies old-school service in Shorewood
According to Bill Quandt, owner of Hayek's Shorewood Pharmacy, 4001 N. Downer Ave., he often fields the same questions from people who want to know how his almost-100-year-old neighborhood drug store can compete with the big chains.
The question comes up so often, he has polished answers and even makes a joke about how good he has become at answering this seemingly burning question. But Quandt also acknowledges that it's a fair question, because so many mom-and-pop pharmacies have closed in the past decade or so, including the East Side's Oriental Pharmacy and Brady Street Pharmacy, both of which are just a couple of miles away from Hayek's.
But according to Quandt, there is a difference between his customers and the shoppers at other nearby pharmacies of the past. His customers, he says, truly need and appreciate very personalized service.
"We know our customers on a very personal level," he says.
Quandt, who graduated from South Division High School and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has worked as a pharmacist at Hayek's since 1970. He became a partial owner soon after getting the job and in 1975, became one of the partners. Today, he owns the business alone, but Matt Hayek, the third generation of the Hayek family to work in the store, serves as the bookkeeper and manager.
In 1918, Matt's grandfather, Ernest Hayek, took over the Wright Drugstore and renamed it Hayek Drugs. At the time, there was only one house on the block that would later become a well-populated residential neighborhood. Matt's father, Robert Hayek, was involved in the operation that became Hayek's Shorewood Pharmacy until 2000.
Nods to Hayek's history are showcased throughout the store. There's a root beer barrel from the soda fountain / ice cream parlor / lunch counter that existed in the '50s displayed in the liquor department and black-and-white photos near the register of the store in the '20s, '30s and '40s. There are also about 10 framed photos of Shorewood little league teams that Hayek's has sponsored over the last decade.
In general, Hayek's has a lot of old-school charm, from the neon signage on the building to the greeting card department lettering on the wall to the vintage candy selections that include Lemonheads, Swedish Fish, Smartees, Pop Rocks, Violet candies and Black Jack gum.
Hayek's modern-day success, according to Quandt, is due to the afore-mentioned level of service, particularly in the pharmacy.
"We're not so much about toothpaste and candy now, we're more medically oriented," he says. "The big chains took over our cosmetics and school supplies business, but our customers still really want personal attention and we give it to them. It's the best part of this job, having conversations with people and about their families and their health."
Quandt says that other reasons why his store has an edge on the big box chains is because they'll deliver items and prescriptions anywhere from the northern suburbs to Downtown and they still offer in-store charge accounts that allow people to carry a tab until the end of the month.
"We don't do this that often anymore, we've had to chase a few customers down in the past, but we still have them for some of our long-term customers," he says.
Small departments of items still exist at Hayek's, including the cosmetic, greeting card and school supplies departments. There's also a toy aisle with classic offerings like the game Don't Spill The Beans, squirt guns and dolls.
The store seems a little empty in some areas that have partially-stocked or unstocked shelves. And the shelves that are stocked have just a few of each item, rather then dozens like at larger stores. But because the store is clean and feels tended to – you won't find dusty items for sale – the limited products seem hand selected instead of old and forgotten.
"There's a different pace here," says Quandt. "I think we'll be able to stick around for a while. At least until our 100-year anniversary in 2018."
I find the service amazing here - my husband used to use one kind of hypo-allergenic shaving cream that I've been combing the city for hoping to find to no avail. I walked in to Hayek's and they offered to special order it, at no extra charge, and just get one can if I wanted. Amazing! They called me when it was in, and I walked over to get it. Now I just wish they could bring back the soda fountain!
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