Three generations of the Winton Pharmacy family business: From left, J. Martin, Michael and Jim Winton. Image contributed by the Wintons
Written by Edward Smith
At midnight tonight, Wintons Vista Pharmacy and Wintons Professional Pharmacy in Fresno will close, a result of an acquisition by the Walgreens chain.
Fresno’s oldest independent drug store, with locations at Tulare and Cedar avenues and Herndon and Millbrook avenues, sold after months of negotiations, according to Michael Winton, co-owner and general manager.
“It was a very difficult discussion to do and to have,” Winton said. “It’s a good partnership and I think we can bring a lot to their company.”
Illinois-based Walgreens operates 8,100 drugstores in all 50 states. It is the second-largest US pharmacy chain behind CVS.
Wintons customers should not notice a significant change, Winton added, short of the closed storefronts.
“It will be a seamless transition for our patients,” Winton said. “The data will already be in our system and they will be able to take care of things very easily.”
In addition, Winton will be staying on to ensure “current customers will be treated as they were.”
The delivery service the pharmacy was known for will not continue after the transition. Employees will have a chance to interview for jobs with Walgreens, Winton said.
J. Martin Winton, Michael Winton’s grandfather, opened the Southeast Fresno location in 1932. The company expanded in 1977 to its second location near Saint Agnes Medical Center.
Jim Winton, second generation co-owner and president of the company, will be retiring after the transition.
“We’re in our 86th year,” Jim Winton said. “I’m really sorry the end had to come this way.”
Jim Winton attributes the decision to sell to the shifting nature of the pharmacy industry.
“In the last two years, we’ve seen a dramatic change in the landscape of pharmacies,” Jim Winton said.
Lower reimbursement rates and delayed payments from insurance and drug companies made it difficult to keep doing business, according to Jim Winton.
“As long as someone tells you how much you can pay and how much they’re going to pay, you’re in a downward spiral,” he said.
But now that the company is changing, Winton sees opportunities.
“I’m hoping that with the partnership we’re going to bring a lot of what we did into their organization,” said Michael Winton.