By Charlie Warner
Argus News Editor
“We feel it is important to keep pharmacies open in smaller communities. Astrup Drug began in Austin in 1952 and has been a family-owned business for 60 years. We feel this acquisition will only help to provide continued service to the communities in Southeast Minnesota.”
That’s what Tim Gallagher of Astrup Drug, Inc. of Austin, Minn. said last week following the announcement that Witt’s Pharmacy, based in Rushford was purchased by Astrup Drug.
Tom Witt purchased his first pharmacy in February 1996 in Rushford. Since then he has added five locations in Caledonia, La Crescent, a second store in Rushford, Spring Grove and Harmony.
Witt said crucial to selling his pharmacies was finding a buyer who would maintain a presence in small communities. He also hoped to find a buyer who’s business was family-owned. Both will become reality with the sale to Astrup Drug, Inc, as Astrup Drug has been providing its communities with their pharmacy needs since 1952 when Leonard Astrup opened his first store in Austin.
Today, Astrup has 12 locations in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa, operating under the names of Sterling and Smart Pharmacy including: Adrian, Albert Lea, Austin, Buffalo, Byron, Fairmont, Faribault, Hastings, Owatonna, Worthington, and a location in Osage, Iowa.
“The acquisition of these stores will strengthen our footprint in Southern Minnesota and give us the ability to be the independent pharmacy of choice for those throughout much of the I-90 corridor”, said Sam Ewing, vice president of operations for Astrup.
Witt’s employees have been notified of the change and know the intention of Astrup is to maintain current staffing and locations.
Gallagher said the Witt’s Pharmacies will operate under the Sterling Pharmacy name. While they don’t plan a lot of changes, there will be some new merchandise lines added to some of the stores.
“We have smaller stores and we have one in Austin that is 30,000 square feet,” Gallagher said. “With our larger stores we offer gift shops and health-line appliances like walkers and wheelchairs. It just depends on how big the store is, as far as how much merchandise we will offer at each location.”
Gallagher said Astrup Drug, Inc. also owns and operates Smart-Fill, a large buying group that has over 500 stores. With this large buying group, Astrup is able to purchase many items on a much larger scale and pass those savings on to its customers.
“We are really excited about this acquisition,” Gallagher said. “We have the network in place to be able to operate quite a few stores from our main headquarters in Austin.”
Witt looks forward to having more free time and “testing out retirement”. With the change in ownership, Witt plans to winter in warm climates and spend more time with his family.