Creekside Pharmacy

by Amy McGarry

Back in October of 2019 Lanae Wiater made her dream come true when she opened Creekside Pharmacy in Davenport Washington. Having plenty of experience in the corporate pharmacy world, Lanae had learned that what she wanted most was to start an independent pharmacy. She had many reasons. Most importantly was her desire to feel like she was making a positive contribution by helping individuals in the community. Rather than “pumping out prescriptions” and “treating people like numbers,” what Lanae really wanted to do was focus on the different individual needs of customers.

Lanae’s interest in health started back in high school when her brother was diagnosed with cancer. Traveling to cancer treatments and helping him manage his health sparked an interest in health care. However, Lanae didn’t think being a doctor or a nurse was her calling. Upon meeting a friend’s brother who was attending pharmacy school, she decided that pharmacy work was a way she could help others. She was able to get a job in high school at a pharmacy in Baker City, Oregon, which introduced her to the everyday workings of the business. That clinched the deal.

Lanae Wiater, Creekside pharmacist

Lanae studied pharmacy at Washington State University for four years, then moved to Spokane for the next two years of her studies. She gained more hands-on practical skills during her internship in a corporate franchise pharmacy. This experience reinforced what she already knew; her dream was to own an independent pharmacy.

Lanae was living in the Davenport/Reardon area with her farmer-husband and commuting to Spokane when the opportunity presented itself. A building came up for sale in Davenport. She jokes that her husband, Ryan, agreed to support her in this endeavor to make his wife happy. (Happy wife, happy life!)

But seriously, it was a quality-of-life issue. Not only was she spending too much time commuting, but she was also pressured to meet corporate goals when her personal goals were to help people and her community, to add value to customer care. Creekside Pharmacy gives her a place to meet those goals in a number of ways. Not only does Creekside Pharmacy offer retail drugs and medical supplies, they also provide counseling on health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, and weight loss. Creekside Pharmacy also supports local businesses by offering locally made gifts. Most importantly to Lanae however, is the attention she can provide to each customer. “I like being able to help an individual who comes in with (any kind of need).”

One example she gives is helping Medicare customers navigate the open enrollment experience. Lanae helps customers evaluate the best plan for them to meet their personal needs.

The pharmacy even provides immunizations, which, in the near future, will include COVID19 vaccinations. Lanae explains that one of the benefits of an independent pharmacy is the ability to make her own decisions and make adjustments quickly, which is one reason Creekside will be able to offer the COVID19 vaccine in the second round of distributions. The soon-to-come first round of distributions is slated for patients and workers in long-term care facilities and frontline workers in the healthcare field. Unfortunately, no one knows for sure when the second round will be available. Lanae thinks that will possibly be in six months or so.

Like so many small businesses, the pandemic had negative impacts on Creekside Pharmacy. Having opened about six months before the pandemic started, growth of the business was slower than she hoped. Customers were encouraged to use the drive-thru to pick up prescriptions, when ideally, they could come into the store and shop for other needs as well. Lanae has also had to put additional goals for how Creekside Pharmacy can help the community on hold. Lanae hopes to offer classes on personal health to the community through the pharmacy. For example, these classes would help people manage diabetes and learn about healthy eating. She also had to put off hiring any other staff, making herself her only employee.

When asked about the biggest challenges she faces as an independent pharmacy owner, it’s no surprise she mentions insurance issues. Lanae notes the complications around how pharmacies get paid by the insurance companies, including the problems with the go-between, or middleman. Furthermore, she argues that the insurance industry in general “needs to be more transparent” because consumers can’t see the full story and the effects on the end users.

On health in general, Lanae says, yes, diet and exercise are important, but she’s quick to stress the importance of mental health. She guides others to seek balance in life, enjoy people, and take a break to care for oneself. For Lanae personally, that includes simplifying. Her hope is to build the business enough to hire staff so that she can have more time to help her husband with the farm.

Helping others is always front and center for Lanae and Creekside Pharmacy. A symbol of this is Creekside Pharmacy’s Tree of Sharing, which coordinates care in the community by providing a forum for others to give to those in need. Lanae admits that what she enjoys the most about running a business in a small rural community is that “people still care for each other.” Clearly, Creekside Pharmacy represents this value.