Stepping into the Palms Pharmacy in The Shoppes at The Pointe plaza in Tampa Palms, just south of the Bruce B. Downs Blvd. exit off I-75, you immediately see that it’s not your typical pharmacy.
Patients are often greeted by name, which has been the standard for the nearly five years since Palms Pharmacy first opened, and there’s usually little to no wait time to get prescriptions filled.
Members of the pharmacy staff — which has grown to eight employees, including the ever-smiling boss, Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) Shahida Choudhry — run prescriptions out to customers who have chosen curbside service.
In addition, the pharmacy is currently administering curbside Covid-19 rapid tests and Covid-19 antibody tests. Because Palms Pharmacy is unable to bill medical insurance, patients have to pay for the tests out of pocket, then request reimbursement from their insurance company.
“But, there’s no waiting in line for four hours,” Dr. Choudhry says, and she and her staff provide all the necessary information for you to easily submit a claim to your insurance company to be reimbursed.
And soon, Palms Pharmacy expects to begin administering the Covid-19 vaccine. To schedule an appointment or find out how to get on the interest list for a Covid-19 vaccine, please use the pharmacy’s secure text-only line to text the pharmacy staff at (727) 513-3210.
For those venturing inside, you might be surprised by the store’s fresh new look.
Glass shelves now show off niche products, such as locally grown honey from Pinellas County, Zumbar and Old Whaling Co. soaps, shower steamers and more, and fun snacks such as TeaPops and Fatty Sundays chocolate-covered pretzels.
Dr. Choudhry says the dramatic change in the pharmacy’s storefront can be attributed to a chance encounter on Instagram with Marcus Lemonis, the famous multimillionaire businessman and star of CNBC’s most popular reality television show, “The Profit.”
She says she was following the reality star’s Instagram Live one night with thousands of others, when Lemonis somehow noticed @PalmsPharmacy was watching, and called on Dr. Choudhry to share about her business. That was followed up with a separate Instagram Live session, where she was a featured guest to discuss her pharmacy with Lemonis, who assigned her homework and gave her tasks to help her improve her business.
She says Lemonis has assigned her a mentor that she checks in with quarterly. She’s also applied to be a guest on his hit TV show. “I learn a lot from him,” Dr. Choudhry says, “because he’s a business guy and I’m a pharmacist running a business.”
She says the pandemic caused Palms Pharmacy to have to pivot and get creative to keep its doors open. Back when hand sanitizer was hard to come by, the compounding pharmacist on her staff began making it. They would sell it to the store’s customers, but also donated quite a bit of it to first responders in the community.
Palms Pharmacy also found ways to both sell and donate personal protective equipment (or “PPE”) when it was hard to come by.
Throughout the pandemic, the pharmacy has stocked up on new essentials, such as disposable masks, anti-fogger spray for glasses, KN95 masks, and a spray to sanitize your reusable masks.
But, it’s not just those essentials that make a trip to Palms Pharmacy so worthwhile for its patients.
“We’re trying to make your pharmacy experience different,” Choudhry says. “It’s more concierge and boutique-like.”
She also says she adds one new product a week, plus you can still get all of the products you would expect to find and have been purchasing since the pharmacy first opened.
“We’ve expanded our line of Ortho Molecular specialty vitamins, for example,” she says, “and added more fun colors and patterns in our compression stockings.”
Palms Pharmacy will celebrate its fifth anniversary in Tampa Palms on April 15.
Dr. Choudhry opened the pharmacy in 2016, after 10 years as the pharmacist at the Publix in Tampa Palms. She loved her job and her customers, but her search for a better balance of her work and home life, where she had two small children, led her to starting her own business.
She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy, then went on to receive her Pharm.D. degree in 2001, both from Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY.
Customer Service The Key
Palms Pharmacy has found success by offering exceptional customer service, above and beyond what you would typically expect from a pharmacy.
For example, the staff 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 same day.”
This is in huge contrast to other pharmacies, especially the chains, which may take 7-10 days to come up with a solution when an insurance company won’t cover a particular medication.
That’s why Sandra Dwinell, a Tampa Palms resident, was overjoyed when she found out that her long-term pharmacist at Publix had opened her own business.
Being that she and her husband both have chronic health issues, her pharmacy experience is extremely important to her.
“I was almost in tears, I was so happy to find them,” Dwinell says. “I immediately moved all of our medications over.”
Dwinell adds that she has learned to always double-check what she’s been told by doctors with Palms Pharmacy. For example, when an allergist in Zephyrhills told her she had to go to a specific pharmacy in Zephyrhills for a test, Dr. Choudhry told Dwinell she could get the test for her and saved her the trip.
“It was no big deal,” Dwinell says. “She ordered it and I got it right there, five minutes from my home. They’re phenomenal.”
Not only that, but Dwinell adds that the staff is incredibly proactive, such as suggesting a high-quality prescription multivitamin that is completely covered by her insurance, saving her from having to pay for over-the-counter vitamins.
This willingness to go above and beyond is what makes Palms Pharmacy stand out to its customers, and keep people like Dwinell coming back.
In fact, Dwinell says most people don’t think of going to the pharmacy as something to look forward to, but between the products she enjoys shopping for — such as the boutique-type gift items in the store like bees wax candles, soaps and body lotions and even fancy teas — and being greeted as a friend, she does.
“Because I have so many allergies and health issues, I need someone who knows me,” Dwinell says. “They know my health issues and are interested in me and what’s going on with me and my medications. It’s like a partnership. They’re not treating (me like) a random number.”
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, text Palm Pharmacy’s secure text-only line at (727) 513-3210 or visit ThePalmsPharmacy.com. Follow Palms Pharmacy on Instagram and/or Facebook for announcements as to when the Covid-19 vaccine will be available.