BELLEVILLE — When his former pharmacy was put up for sale but did not bring many offers, Todd Evers decided to make a come back.
The pharmacist closed his Harold Smith Pharmacy in July 2011, but had few bids. One that did was a dollar store, which gave Evers the idea.
"Nobody was looking at it, but the real estate guys said that the one that did look at it was a dollar store, and he said that would be a great neighborhood for a dollar store," Evers said. "And I said, 'You know, you're right. It would be a good place for a dollar store.' Everybody I talked to, I mentioned the idea to said that would be a great idea. So that is kind of how it started."
After the first of the year, Evers took the store property at 1406 W. Main St. off the market and began planning his new business: Dollars & Cents. He partnered with Wally Bergman, who earlier this year bought Krupp Florist down the street and operates Wally Bags Group LLC in Millstadt. Evers said he was put in contact with some of the people Bergman does business with to bring in product and merchandise to Evers' new business.
"We had this building, and we need to make it productive again," Evers said.
Evers has erected a wall where the pharmacists' counter was, and turned the area behind it into a storage room with shelves. As the name implies, the new dollar store will sell many items for a buck. Shoppers will find refrigerated and fresh groceries like bread, milk, cheese and lunch meat, as well as toys, automotive supplies, pet supplies, decorations and greeting cards.
Evers said he saw potential in the building because of the surrounding neighborhood as well as the recently increasing number of students coming to Lindenwood University's Belleville campus about nine blocks away down West Main Street.
"We're targeting not only this neighborhood, but kids up at Lindenwood," he said. "They need a place to go and get stuff as well. So they will be a huge target for us."
When Dollar & Cents opens its doors to customers for the first time on Thursday morning, former Evers' former pharmacy employees will also work at the new store. One is Linda Blane, who had worked at the pharmacy as a pharmacist technician for 11 years until it closed. In the 15 months since, she said she tried to find another job, but remained unemployed, until she got a call from another former co-worker, Carol Bratzky, who asked her to work at Evers' new business.
"I said, 'OK,'" Blane said. "It's close to home. I live very close. I said it's fine. I'll be glad to see my same customers because I miss people. I really liked out customers. We were very friendly. We cared about people. We were family-oriented with the pharmacy and up front. We knew their names. We just knew our customers. We want the same people back and new people."
Harold Smith Pharmacy had been a part of Belleville for 80 years. The pharmacy dated back to the 1930s across the street, catty-corner from its last locale for most of its time in business. The pharmacy moved to the building at 1406 W. Main St. around 1987, Evers said. Evers bought it in 1990.
However, suffering profit margins from prescription drug programs and lagging Medicaid reimbursements from the state has forced independent pharmacies like Collinsville-based Evers Group of Pharmacies to close some stores. When the Harold Smith Pharmacy closed, Evers Group also shuttered its Evers Pharmacy in Collinsville and Allen's Drugs in Troy. Today, the company still operates Millstadt Pharmacy in Millstadt and Dauber Pharmacy in Mascoutah.
But Todd Evers is not looking back. He's looking ahead and is excited to launch his new enterprise.
"It's all about using under-utilized assets," Evers said. "I already had the building. The employees were people who used to work for me, so they needed jobs."
"We want to bring this area back in Belleville," Blane said. "We want to make it popular, again."
Dollars & Cents will open for business at 9 a.m. Thursday. The store will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. A grand opening is planned for Nov. 17.
Contact reporter Will Buss at email@example.com or 239-2526.