At Nassau Avenue’s Sai Apteka Pharmacy, it’s not just about filling prescriptions, it’s about building relationships with customers.
Opened last year on Nassau Avenue, the pharmacy established its footing in the neighborhood by accommodating the various needs of its customers.
Unlike larger pharmacies at establishments like CVS and Target which fill over 500 prescriptions a day, Sai Apteka works on a much smaller scale – but what it lacks in volume it tries to make up for by providing various incentives and benefits to its customers.
“We work with [customers’] doctors, if they prescribe a medicine with a really high co-payment, I can speak to the doctor, check online, and speak with the drug manufacturer, and I can get some discounts for them through certain patient specific programs,” said pharmacist Ashiq Zaman. “Pharmacies that are really busy they’re not going to do that for their patients.”
Zaman said that, for both pharmacists and customers, one of the advantages of going to an independent, privately-owned pharmacy is the fact that prices can sometimes be negotiated.
“I worked at chains for four years,” he said. “The computer tells them to charge a specific price and they have no right or power to change that price for you. Here we have control over prices to a certain extent.”
That comes particularly handy to patients who are without any form of medical insurance.
When they can’t discount the prescription, Sai Apteka tries to discount non-medicinal items at the store to help patients who have to fork out more money without insurance policies.
“If they don’t have insurance and they’re taking medication from us, we can help with that,” said Beata Kennedy, another pharmacist at the store. “Say if the patient is buying multiple prescriptions but they don’t have insurance than maybe we can give them a monthly gift certificate for stuff that is over the counter.”
Kennedy herself is a major asset to the business as well. With more than 16 years of experience in the medical profession, connections she has made with local doctors have allowed her to set up quick appointments for her customers, and to recommend doctors to customers who are looking for one. Her many Polish customers find comfort working with the Polish-American Kennedy, who is fluent in their native tongue.
And it works reflexively as well. Doctors with whom Kennedy has connections will often recommend the pharmacy to their patients, and Kennedy said that that type of reciprocal relation helps the store in the extremely competitive market – there are three pharmacies just blocks away from Sai Apteka.
The store strives to add personal touches where it can, to set itself apart. This past Christmas, for example, the owners of the store, Harry Vutukuri and Ram Nalla, sent Christmas cards and mini-coupons to people in the neighborhood.
The name of the store is an amalgam of two words “Sai,” meaning good energy in Sanskrit, and “Apteka,” meaning pharmacy in Polish – and it’s that very combination that the pharmacists at the store are striving for.
“Spending time with patients is always the best thing,” said Kennedy. “You attend to their needs and they’ll always remember you.”
151 Nassau Avenue