Prescription for worry

Shopko’s departure impacts smaller communities

Posted on Mar 28, 2019 :: New North
Sharon Verbeten
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

The City of Brillion doesn’t want to see an empty big box store off U.S. Highway 10, and it doesn’t want to see its small community without a pharmacy.

But due to Shopko’s decision to file for bankruptcy, close all of its retail stores and sell its pharmacy business, that’s just what some local communities like this small Calumet County city are facing.

“It’s definitely a concern for the city, but one we’re hoping we will get past,” says Brillion City Administrator Lori Gosz.

The Ashwaubenon-based retailer is closing all of its stores in waves through June 16. Prior to the announcement, Shopko had 30 stores in the New North.Along with closing stores, Shopko sold off its pharmacies to multiple players including Kroger, Hy-Vee, CVS and Walgreens. The company also closed the pharmacies it operates at ThedaCare medical centers in Shawano and Waupaca.

The Appleton-based healthcare system is working with Shopko to determine how it will transition its patient prescriptions and what comes next, says Cassandra Wallace, public relations specialist for ThedaCare.

While larger communities with other pharmacies are noticing an impact with other stores gaining more business, smaller cities have been hit hard and may lose their only pharmacy. That’s definitely true in Brillion, which is located about 25 miles from both Green Bay and Appleton.

“That’s the biggest loss for our community — losing the pharmacy,” Gosz says.

The city’s previous pharmacy was family-owned and purchased by Shopko when it arrived in Brillion about five years ago. Gosz says residents from surrounding communities including Hilbert and Reedsville who traveled to Brillion for their medications are also searching for a new pharmacy.

Walgreens in Kaukauna took over the Shopko prescriptions, but that is now at least a 15-minute ride for area residents.

Gosz says she’s optimistic the city will secure a new pharmacy by the end of the year. The city is also looking for a tenant for the now-empty store.

Residents of Winneconne were floored when their Shopko closed since it left the Winnebago County village without a pharmacy. The village worked with the Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corp. to find a pharmacy to locate in Winneconne so residents did not have to drive
to Oshkosh or Omro to pick up their prescriptions.

In mid-March, Hometown Pharmacy, which has more than 40 locations across Wisconsin, announced it would open a Winneconne location at 911 E. Main St.