Future of Nantucket Pharmacy Still In Limbo

Jason Graziadei •

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"I don't think we could do another summer," Nantucket Pharmacy owner and pharmacist Allan Bell told the Current last July as he and his partners contemplated how to move on from the business they've run for decades.

As it turns out, another summer may be just what the doctor ordered.

After months of actively searching for a buyer and someone who could continue operating the pharmacy, the future of the beloved Nantucket Pharmacy is still in limbo. Bell told the Current on Tuesday that while there are suitors, nothing concrete has materialized, and it looks as though he and his longtime partners - Ken Knutti, RPh, Jill Audycki, RPh, and Joanne Skokan - will be at it for another summer.

"I have some people who are very interested in buying the building," Bell said. "They’re not pharmacists but they want to make sure a pharmacy stays on forever. They want to make the pharmacy continue on with cheap rent and all that stuff. But I can’t get anyone to buy the pharmacy. They don’t want to move the island, and right now the pharmacy itself is not a good business. They don’t want to come here to lose money, and our outfront store is not enough to carry it."

Bell said he's looked at many different scenarios - including one potential buyer he called an "absentee owner" who would have relied on him to hire a pharmacist - but acknowledged those would likely not be good outcomes for the pharmacy that so many in the community rely upon. 

"Right now, we’re quite honestly looking to close the pharmacy at the end of October unless something comes up," Bell said. "Ken (Knutti) will not leave his people high and dry. So we'll go through summer no matter what and give time for the (Nantucket) Cottage Hospital time to ramp up what they have, and I'm not sure what Dan (Balling) will do (at Dan's Pharmacy)."

Bell said he has been in contact with ReMain Nantucket - which has a mission to "strengthen the economic, social and environmental vitality of downtown Nantucket" and has acquired numerous downtown properties - but the organization is not planning to buy the Nantucket Pharmacy building or the pharmacy business. However, ReMain Nantucket has brought some potential buyers to the table.

"They're facilitating," Bell said of ReMain.

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From left to right, and Joanne Skokan; owner and pharmacist Allan Bell; Ken Knutti, RPh; and Jill Audycki, RPh. Photo by Kit Noble.

Nantucket Pharmacy has been locally owned and serving the community since 1937. But Bell, who took over as owner in 1977, and his partners are all in their 60s and 70s and looking forward to their next chapters in life. Last summer they said the hope was to attract a new, younger pharmacist who could come take over the operation from them and keep the business running largely as it has been for decades. But at the time they were not optimistic that such a person would materialize, and over the ensuing months, it has indeed proven to be as challenging as they expected. 

Should the pharmacy portion of the business close down, it would leave Nantucket with just two remaining pharmacies: Dan’s Pharmacy on Pleasant Street and the Cottage Pharmacy run by Nantucket Cottage Hospital on Vesper Lane.

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