CVS opens on Corridor

One of the goals of the upgrades on Fifth Avenue South – Fort Dodge’s booming Corridor of Commerce – was to make the city attractive to major corporate entities seeking to expand their operations into new locales.

The decision by nation’s largest drug store chain to locate its latest outlet in the Hawkeye State on the corner of Fifth Avenue South and 21st Street suggests the city’s game plan for attracting investment is paying dividends.

CVS/pharmacy is the retail division of CVS Caremark, a health care conglomerate based in Woonsocket, R.I, which has some 200,000 employees in 45 states and the District of Columbia. The company operates more than 7,600 drug stores nationwide. It opened its Fort Dodge CVS/pharmacy at 2906 Fifth Ave. S. on Nov. 24 as part of an ongoing expansion in Iowa.

The company built a 13,225-square-foot store in an area where the Sun Market and Deli II and Tequila’s, a Mexican restaurant, once stood. Those buildings plus two houses on 20th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues south were demolished to make room for the store. The project represents an investment of approximately $900,000 in Fort Dodge.

The CVS/pharmacy team in Fort Dodge is headed by Kristie Stackhouse, the local general manager. She said the store has a work force of 19 almost all of whom were local hires.

Stackhouse said the evolution of the Corridor of Commerce made the store’s location very attractive to her company.

“CVS wanted to be part of this development,” she said. “It has been a good spot for us.”

The pharmacy component is a major part of the enterprise. It is led by two licensed pharmacists both of whom are graduates of Drake University. The lead pharmacist is Jedidiah Bartlett, of Ames. His colleague is Lindsay Charon, of Humboldt.

The pharmacy is fully state-of-the-art according to both Stackhouse and Bartlett. It not only dispenses prescriptions, but also has a range of other services available including vaccinations. There is a drive-through window. Additionally, the store offers free local delivery of prescriptions.

Bartlett said that he and Charon are committed to providing highly personalized service to patrons.

“We are both willing to put the extra time in to explain your prescriptions or answer any questions you might have,” he said. “We always try to be accessible. … Give us a try. We’ll try to give you the best service possible.”

Bartlett stressed that customers who wish to shift prescriptions to CVS/pharmacy will find the process extremely easy.

Stackhouse said a customer-friendly environment and top-notch service are priorities throughout the store.

“When you walk in the store, it is open,” she said. “The shelves are low-profile, so it feels very open and welcoming. We give excellent customer service. There are many advertised promotions. An ad comes out in the Sunday paper.”

CVS/pharmacy also has a rewards program that helps loyal customers save money.

“You get a card,” Stackhouse explained. “Every time you ring up you get 2 percent back every quarter. It comes in the form of our “Extra Bucks” which is a coupon that can be used in the store for anything with the exception of things we have to legally exclude such as alcohol, tobacco and prescriptions.”

The store offers a huge array of products.

CVS/pharmacy sells an extensive selection of general merchandise including over-the-counter drugs, beauty products and cosmetics, seasonal merchandise, greeting cards and convenience items. It also offers CVS/pharmacy store brands that are alternatives to national brands.

“Vitamins are popular here, prescriptions, cough and cold medicine, convenience foods,” Stackhouse said, reflecting on the diverse products the store stocks. “We have very competitive liquor and cigarette prices. We have a large liquor aisle and a large cosmetics selection. … We have a seasonal area that changes for each specific holiday. We have two self-serve photo kiosks.”

Stackhouse has a welcoming message for potential customers.

“If you come here, you’ll get great service, great prices,” she said. “I think that people when they shop here will feel the staff members are happy to work here. They get along so well. It’s a nice place to work for all of us, so that makes it a nice place to shop.”

Stackhouse said she has worked in retail for a decade and finds the work enjoyable and professionally fulfilling.

“I just love retail,” she said. “I love merchandising. I like everything you do to build sales.”