There is a chain pharmacy right across the street, and two other Publix pharmacies located right down the road on each side of her.
And yet, Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) Shahida Choudhry says her Palms Pharmacy is thriving at its location in The Shoppes at The Pointe plaza in Tampa Palms — just off the Bruce B. Downs Blvd. exit of I-75.
Dr. Choudhry may not have the national and regional backing of her nearest competitors, but she has something she says is just as valuable — a hard-working and committed staff that is growing and genuinely cares about providing the exceptional neighborhood touch that comes with being a locally owned and community-focused business.
“And don’t forget, woman-owned,” says Choudhry, who opened the pharmacy in 2016 between the popular Ciccio Cali and Koizi Endless Hibachi & Sushi eateries in the plaza.
She says a strong relationship with local physicians, as well as word of mouth and advertising in the Neighborhood News have helped Palms Pharmacy grow from what was once just Choudhry and Naivis Valdez — who Choudhry says “runs the show” — to a staff that has grown to six people, including a second full-time pharmacist, two pharmacy students and a pharmacy clerk.
Despite Palm Pharmacy’s now-larger staff, Dr. Choudhry still promises the personalized service and familiarity that is hard to find in a typical chain drug store, and it has remained open during the COVID-19 crisis
She and her staff get to know all of their customers. Not only do they learn their names — so they can greet them personally and start getting their prescriptions ready as they’re walking in the door — they also learn about their patients’ medications so the staff can provide the best possible care for them.
“Lots of folks like the 1-on-1 service we give them,” Dr. Choudhry says proudly. “When they pull up, we have their stuff ready. I know you’ve heard that before, but it’s true.”
The pharmacy will celebrate its fourth anniversary in Tampa Palms on April 15.
It already has expanded once, in 2018, when it literally moved one door over to a larger location, allowing more room for pharmacists and technicians to work, a separate room for prescription compounding, and another separate room where durable medical equipment (such as walkers, crutches and nebulizers) is sold and fittings for compression garments are done.
Even so, Palms Pharmacy has almost already outgrown its newfound space.
Dr. Choudhry received her Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy, then went on to receive her Pharm.D. degree, both from Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY, in 2001.
Before opening Palms Pharmacy, Dr. Choudhry was the pharmacist at the Publix in Tampa Palms for 10 years. She loved her job and her customers, but her search for a better balance of her work life and home, where she has two small children, led her to starting her own business.
So, she says, she took classes and read books and asked questions of many people who served as mentors to her, eventually opening Palms Pharmacy and hiring Naivis to work alongside her.
“It’s a hustle,” she says about owning her own business.
She must be doing something right, though – she has been asked to speak in June about owning a pharmacy at a Women in Pharmacy conference in Austin, TX.
Success Spurs Growth
What’s Palms Pharmacy’s secret sauce?
“We do exactly the same as every other pharmacy,” Dr. Choudhry says, showing off her ever-present wide smile. “But, we do it better.”
And, she adds, just because Palms Pharmacy is a small business doesn’t mean its prices are any higher than the chains. “We actually are competitive and in many cases, cheaper,” she says.
Palms Pharmacy boasts a wait time that Choudhry says is usually “next to nothing,” along with compounding medications and selling durable medical equipment not available at typical big chain pharmacies. Choudhry and her staff also provide immunizations such as flu shots, vaccines for pneumonia and shingles, and travel vaccines.
Dr. Choudhry says she had Shingrix, a shingles vaccine, when no one else around had it.
“We try to stay ahead of the market,” she says.
The entire staff also thrives on helping patients with especially complicated health or insurance issues, which are becoming more and more common these days. Dr. Choudhry says that when insurance companies decline to cover a patient’s medications, that’s when she picks up the phone. “I know the doctors and the medical assistants,” she says. “I work with them to get their patients what they need, usually within the day.”
This is in huge contrast to other pharmacies, which may take 7-10 days to come up with a solution when an insurance company won’t cover a medication.
In fact, Dr. Choudhry says many of her patients find Palms Pharmacy through their doctors.
“Doctors are supportive of us because we take care of their patients,” she says.
And, it’s not always about the sale. Choudhry is always suggesting helpful lifestyle changes, such as exercise and diet recommendations, to help customers avoid bigger health problems down the road, as opposed to just handing over your medication and rushing you out the door.
Dr. Choudhry also embraces new technologies when it comes to providing convenient customer service, as environmentally-friendly QR codes are now included with every prescription.
Patients can now point their cell phone cameras at the QR codes on their prescriptions and be taken to a website that will play a video offering the same description of the medication, and its possible side effects, that come on the folded up paper with the small print that has always previously come with your prescription.
The website also contains other information, as well as a form to fill out, and any questions will go directly to Dr. Choudhry’s email. “We started it in January, and have had a really good reception to it,” she says. “I think it’s really cool, and a lot of folks lose their stuff, so it’s really convenient, too.”
More Than Prescriptions
Choudhry also says she tries to hit the trade shows to make sure that Palms Pharmacy’s shelves are always stocked with the latest and best products.
She has recently begun carrying three different brands of CBD products — Procana, Medterra and Ananda — at various price points (you can get two tablets for $4 if you’re only looking to try it out), in various forms and in a variety of dosages. And, Dr. Choudhry and her staff will work with you to help you find the right product and dosage that will work best for you.
Over the past year, Palms Pharmacy has added products like handmade soaps from the highly-rated Old Whaling Company, as well as carrying aluminum-free natural deodorant from American Provenance, beeswax and honey soaps from Joan’s A Keeper and organic cleaners from Rena Naturals.
“I like to carry stuff no one else is carrying,” Dr. Choudhry says.
Palms Pharmacy also sells natural vitamins and supplements, from top companies such as Pure, Nordic, Metagenics and Mason. The store also sells LovePop pop-up greeting cards and most of the popular the Zum line, such as all-natural soaps, lip products, body lotions and more.
What’s the next hot product? “I’ll let you know in two weeks,” Dr. Choudhry says, as she is off to another trade show.
“Always hustling,” she says, adding that opening her own pharmacy has been extremely rewarding.
“I love it,” she says. “We’re growing every day and it’s a blessing. I wake up every morning and I’m excited to get to work every day.”
Palms Pharmacy is located at 17008 Palm Pointe Dr., Tampa, and is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. For more information, call (813) 252-9063, see the ad on pg. 23 or visit ThePalmsPharmacy.com.