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Deltaville Pharmacy was a gathering place

Genie and Curt Saunders served the Middlesex community for 43 years as owners of Deltaville Pharmacy, which later became the Medicine Shoppe. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

by Tom Chillemi

Lucy, a labrador retriever, is still running to the Medicine Shoppe in Hartfield. She hasn’t figured out why her owners, Curt and Genie Saunders, are not there.

After 43 years as pharmacists in the Deltaville and Hartfield area, the Saunderses retired on January 31, 2013—Curt’s 70th birthday.

“Curt and Genie have always given us more than we could ask,” said Ann Padgett, referring to how they would go to the pharmacy in the middle of the night to fill a prescription and deliver it if need be.

“That was just part of the job,” said Curt.

The future of health care is uncertain, but good memories do not change. “Curt and Genie were always there to make us feel better,” said Roseanne Moncure of Hartfield. “They were a refuge in a storm. Where can you go and have someone care so much?”

Reflecting on a lifetime of service, Genie commented, “We are privileged they chose us to take care of them,” she said. “Although our contacts were brief sometimes, we found out things about our customers and their families, and got to know them.”

Curt and Genie’s careers have spanned from the era when the medicine’s name could not be listed on the bottle, and only the doctor could discuss a patient’s medications. They retire in a time when some pharmacies use robots, instructed by computers, to fill many prescriptions.

The Beginning
It was July 1969 when Curt and Genie arrived in Deltaville with the idea of starting a pharmacy. Just out of college and still in their mid-20s, they had been married only a few weeks.

The main counter at the Deltaville Pharmacy

Any second thoughts they had about their business venture soon vanished. Within a year they had built Deltaville Pharmacy, on the site of what is now the Deltaville Library.

The Saunderses’ important place in the community was affirmed on Memorial Day weekend of 1970 when it was time to move from the small building, which they shared with the late Dr. Harold “Bill” Felton, to their new 4,700 square-foot store on Lover’s Lane.

Without being asked, many community members turned out to help. Men loaded pickup trucks, and women sent food for the workers and helped stock the shelves of the new drug store. “What would have taken us four or five days was accomplished in six hours one evening,” said Curt.

It was a traditional drug store, a sort of “general” store with items that customers had asked for and were not available elsewhere in town—cosmetics, toys, sewing supplies, greeting cards and much more.

There was a place to socialize at the soda fountain and lunch counter. That’s where Helen Ward worked when she was a senior at Middlesex High School. “It was a wonderful job,” she recalled. “That was a good time. We got to meet all the local people of Deltaville.”

Helen Ward said Curt could always tell when she had a bad day at school. “He was there for us,” she said. “I love them both. They played a big role in our lives and continue to play a big role to this day.”

Helen Ward was working the lunch counter when she met her future husband, Floyd. “I had a feeling he was going to ask me out,” she said. But he left without asking for a date. Five minutes later, the pharmacy phone rang. It was Floyd calling Helen for a date.

Two years later, their wedding day arrived. When Helen got to the church, there was Curt waiting outside. She had been crying all morning long. “Curt looked at his watch and said, ‘If you change your mind, you can be at work in 15 minutes,’ ” she said.

Helen and Floyd are still married and have four adult children.

Curt and Genie said there are so many people they need to recognize and thank. Retiring was bittersweet for both of them. When they were in the process of retiring in December, they would see customers who they knew they might never ever see again after retirement.

“We didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to some customers, said Genie. “We simply want to say, ‘Thank you!’”

Read the rest of this story in this week’s Southside Sentinel at newstands throughout the county, or sign up here to receive a print and/or electronic pdf subscription.

posted 04.03.2013

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