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Serving the Towns of Guilford, Branford and North Branford
All in the Family - Towne Pharmacy Turns 50
Posted on November 6th, 2015

In November 1965, Towne Pharmacy first opened its doors on Main Street. Half a century later, second-generation owner, pharmacist, and CEO Karen (Ward) Ragonese invites the town to share in the celebration as Towne Pharmacy turns 50.
Karen pretty much grew up in the shop co-founded by her dad, pharmacist William Ward, who passed away in 2003. For Karen, her years serving the local community at Towne Pharmacy began when she was just a girl.
“I did the papers, and the front part of the store, since I was nine, and I just always loved it,” says Karen. “I loved Branford, I loved coming here. We lived in West Haven at the time, and it was just a nice place to come.”
By the age of 13, Karen was clerking for her dad. She worked at the business through high school and went on to study pharmacology at UConn, earning her degree. Next, Karen planned to come back to Branford and Towne Pharmacy. There was just one catch.
“I came back, and my dad wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to hire me!” says Karen. “He already had his staff.”
Long-time Towne Pharmacy customers are sure to remember two of Ward’s past pharmacy employees, Polly Tweed and Frank Kinney, who, like many other Towne Pharmacy staff, stayed on for many years.

Karen’s dad did find a way to hire her as a pharmacist, starting part-time. That was “perfect,” says Karen, newlywed at the time. She and her husband Vincent (who recently came on board to help with the business following his career retirement), are Branford residents with three children.
Karen’s pharmacy hours grew through the years, especially as her dad began taking time off and she began filling his hours, too. Then, about 25 years ago, “the store took off,” says Karen.
She convinced her dad the business needed to upgrade to meet the demand.
“We were staying ‘til way after closing, trying to catch up on prescriptions with a typewriter and files,” says Karen.
Karen organized the shop’s first computer upgrade, followed by many more through the years as technology continued change. Today, Towne Pharmacy boasts updated technology that includes some major investments, such as the store’s “robot.”
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“People assume, because we are small, we are technologically challenged,” says Karen. “Someone recently said to me, ‘Costco has a state-of-the-art pharmacy.’ I said, ‘I have a state-of-the-art pharmacy!’ I have a robot, I have scanners, I have counting scanners; at the register, everything is top of the line technology.”
Okay, a robot? That’s the familiar term used to describe the shop’s computerized custom medication packaging. It creates individual client “wheels” of connected, segmented plastic pillows, each filled with specific medications customized for daily doses, with instructions printed out on each section. The system avoids mix-ups at home and adds safety and convenience for clients and caregivers.
Adding a robot isn’t the only big investment Karen’s made to keep Towne Pharmacy on Main Street. About six years ago, she doubled the size of the shop, knocking down a wall between the original store and a vacated space next door.
Even as larger national businesses continue to enter the area, Karen feels the quality of customer service and attention, with state-of-the-art technology, will continue to carry Towne Pharmacy into the future. As a certified Medicare and Medicaid billing center, Towne Pharmacy often receives referrals from other pharmacies, including some chains that don’t provide the service. The pharmacy also provides medication reviews, medical equipment and supplies, immunizations, and diabetic counseling.

While she may not be able to control growing competition, one thing well within Karen’s oversight is continuing Towne Pharmacy’s reputation.
“I think the majority of the reason we have our customers is the service they get and the trust factor,” says Karen. “We’re used to knowing everybody on a first-name basis. I have people coming here since I was little, so they know me...We can make decisions because we don’t have a corporate entity to listen to—I’m the corporate entity!”
Karen also volunteers on the board of Branford’s Coalition to Prevent Underage Drinking and is also a member of the Branford Festival board as well as Shoreline Eldercare Alliance and Branford Rotary. With her business, family, and home in Branford, Karen says she’s happy to give back to the town, and hopes to keep serving area residents for many years to come.
Unlike many businesses that have since moved on (or disappeared) since 1965, Towne Pharmacy still stands in the same location as the day it opened, across from the Branford Town Green. Karen’s inviting the public to a three-day 50th anniversary celebration at the store —she’ll roll out light breakfast on Wednesday, Nov. 11, lunch (local fare) on Thursday, Nov. 12, and a share a big, beautiful 50th birthday cake on Friday, Nov. 13. Towne Pharmacy also plans to give away raffle prizes (Fitbit, Kindle Fire, and a Towne Pharmacy gift certificate) over the course of the celebration and even offer some in-store specials, including some items at 1965 prices.
In the last 50 years, Towne Pharmacy has survived two major fires and there’s been an ever-changing economy, new health care laws, evolving technology, competition, and more. Through it all, the business has been a “passion” says Karen, who recalls convincing her dad not to sell the store.
“I think at one point he was ready sell out, and we had a conversation about that, and we came to another decision,” says Karen. “This has always been a passion for me.”
Towne Pharmacy is located at 1012 Main Street. Branford. For more information on store hours, products, and more, visit http://www.townepharmacyinc.com/ or call 203-488-1631.



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