After 38 years Rancho Park Pharmacy closed its doors on May 3. Photo by Lillian Cox

Longtime Encinitas pharmacy closes its doors

Story has been modified since its original posting.ENCINITAS — Another Encinitas landmark is gone. Rancho Park Pharmacy, which opened its doors in November 1974, closed May 3. John and Linda Eddington were the first owners of the pharmacy, which served the region from Rancho Santa Fe to Village Park, giving it its name.Chrissy Pollard was 23 when she was hired in the spring of 1975. She remained with the store until it closed last week.

“It was the first business to open (in the shopping center now occupied by Sprouts), even before Alpha Beta,” she said.

Back then, Pollard says there was only a stop sign at El Camino Real and Encinitas Boulevard. Red Richie Ford stood where Encinitas Ford is now, and the original Borrelli’s was across the street in the shopping center where Ortho Mattress is located.

“The color scheme was orange, avocado and brown, which was popular in the 1970s,” she said. “There was a wooden drawer in the post office where we kept change. I weighed mail by hand. People from the racetrack would use their winnings to buy money orders worth thousands of dollars.”

Pollard said an orange VW bug with a mortar and pestle on the roof was used to provide free delivery.

“We sold products like Bag Balm, which was used for calluses on cows’ udders,” she said. “People would come from as far as Oceanside. They would tell others, ‘Go to Rancho Park Pharmacy. They’ll have it!’”

From left: Owner Eric Tran, Helen Nauert, Tara Elliott, Chrissy Pollard, Will Wynn, post office manager Lorraine Goyette, Manager, Kathy Koda, Donna Skee, Barbara Nauert. Photo by Lillian Cox

Many of the customers were popular stars including singer Patti Page and actors Victor Mature, Martin Milner and Michael Landon.

Pollard and the others were cross-trained as postal workers and pharmacy techs. There was also the gift shop that remained popular till closing.

“I’d sell presents, then wrap, package and mail them,” she said. “There was free gift wrap. During the holidays we’d have hot cider and Christmas music. Linda sang carols.”

Since the announcement of the closing was made on April 13, post office manager Lorraine Goyette says there’s been a steady stream of customers dropping off bakery items and coming by to bid farewell.

Others, like Stacy Foster, hadn’t heard of the closing until the last day.

“I was so shocked and horrified that I couldn’t get money out of my wallet,” she said. “I’ve been coming here for prescriptions since my kids were young and now they are in their 40s and 50s. I just called my daughter to tell her Rancho Park Pharmacy was closing and she said, ‘You’re kidding!’ It’s so sad.”

Added Kathy Hutchinson, “I’ve been supporting this business for 25 years. This is very upsetting that, again, another small business is closing.”

An Encinitas native, Donna Skee was just hired in August.

“It was nice because there was a ‘Help Wanted’ sign and I didn’t have to fill out an application on the Internet,” she said. “Rancho Park was like something you’d see on The Waltons. It seems that whenever Wal-Mart comes to town, they take the little guy down.”

Rancho Park had nine owners during its history, each a pharmacist. Eric Tran was the last.

“I’m disappointed by the fact that the store has been here since 1974 and that it is closing on my watch,” he said. “When I took over seven years ago, the game was relatively even. You were successful if you provided a good product at a good price. Then things changed.”

Tran explained that in the past three years he has lost one-third of his business, forcing him to sell to CVS. Issues have related to an increase in big box pharmacies, insurance providers pushing patients to use online pharmacies, lower insurance reimbursements and higher business costs. In addition, consumers are using e-mail and eCards instead of purchasing stationery and using the mail.

For now, Tran is going to take a break, then look for another job, he says, most likely for a big box pharmacy.

“I’m 37 and won’t be retiring soon,” he said. “I thought I would build up this business. It looks like that’s not going to happen. I’ve been successful with other ventures before and this feels like a failure.”

He added, “I want to thank everyone for their support, and I really enjoyed taking care of them over the years.”

Goyette asks Encinitas business owners near El Camino Real and Encinitas Boulevard who might consider subletting a small space for a satellite post office to contact her at (760) 753-3652.