There are two pharmacies I frequent on a regular basis: C. Budning, affiliated with the Proxim Group, on Westminster Avenue North in Montreal West and the small Pharmaprix on Caldwell Avenue in Côte Saint-Luc, now operated by Sarah Ettedgui and David Banon.
I go back at least 25 years with C. Budning. Originally the “C” stood for Charles Budning and eventually included “Carole," as in Charles’s daughter (below right). When Charles passed away just over a decade ago, Carole carried on the family tradition in fine form. She followed in her dad’s footsteps, became a pharmacist and retained all of the clientele most because of her exceptional personalized service. Like Charles, Carole is caring when one calls with a medical problem. She will come from behind the counter and dispense advice. This is not a big box pharmacy, which has its advantages.
Well, there are some new developments which could adversely affect Carole’s business. Very recently Joel Weigensberg shut down the automobile repair station which was originally started by his dad Dave. It is located at the corner of Westminster and Sherbrooke Street West, virtually across from the C. Budning Pharmacy. Pharmaprix immediately bought the property and made an offer to purchase the adjacent medical clinic. They want to construct a 20,000 square foot facility. What should Montreal West Town Council do? Is this fair to C. Budning, which has been in operation for decades and has a loyal following?
Consider this scenario for a moment. Two years ago Aziza Alaoui sold her pharmacy on Caldwell Avenue to Pharmaprix. Now this is a small strip small establishment and like Budning its strength is strong personal service. But there is a very large Pharmaprix located only a few blocks away at the Cavendish Mall. Everyone, from customers to staff, feared that the plan was to ultimately close the Caldwell location and shift all of the clients to the Mall. But very quickly, the new owner realized that if something like that would occur, customers would not necessarily go to the Mall. Sarah Ettedgui and David Banon are presently the owners of the Caldwell and Mall Pharmaprix locations. I have yet to meet them. Ageless Saul Singer is the most regular pharmacist on hand. He is thorough, patient and pleasant. Bu the real stars here are Sheila Cohen and Thomas Virta (left), two technicians who process all of the orders. They know every customer’s personal history virtually by heart and will go the extra mile in terms of calling a doctor’s office or insurance company for you. When I call I do not ask for the pharmacist – Sheila and Thomas are flawless. Sheila recently broke her foot and came back to work within only two weeks, wearing a walking cast.
Pharmaprix should take a look at the Caldwell-Mall example. They aleady have a big box location a few miles down the road at Sherbrooke and Cavendish and a smaller one near Concordia’s Loyola campus. The Budning clients are loyal. They will not budge.
“Montreal West is a very unique town with its own character and personality,” says Carole. “ There is a special feel to our community that is shared by its occupants. This is a place where most everyone knows their neighbour, and more so wants to. On a walk down the street or into my store you are greeted by name and with a smile. Serendipitous rendezvous turn into wonderful reunions. In this town we are truly a family oriented community knitted by the townspeople’s exceptional interpersonal relationships.
“The building of a large Pharmaprix at the intersection of the town’s two main commercial streets threatens to erode the small town charm that sets us apart from other districts. Most residents would tell you that they settled in Montreal West because they were drawn in by its small town charm despite its higher taxes. They are here for the community and it has been my pleasure to serve as their community pharmacist for over 20 years following in the footsteps of my father who purchased the pharmacy in 1955.”
Carole reasons that currently there are many large format pharmacies just a short distance, even minutes away from the town core. “They are very easily accessible by those who wish to patron them,” she says. “The move against the establishment of a Pharmaprix in our town is to preserve the way of life that the just over 5,000 MoWesters have cherished since 1897.”
Interestingly, Montreal West Mayor Beny Masella is a pharmacist as well. His pharmacy is located in the Côte Saint-Luc section of Westminster Avenue.
What will his council do? It will be interesting to watch.