Kinney Drugs will not reopen its Waitsfield pharmacy, company officials announced this week.
The store has been closed since January 5 when an electrical fire in the adjacent Infinite Sports sent smoke and ash into the nearby Shades of Winter yarn shop, Canteen Creemee Co., Kinney Drugs and Mehuron’s Market.
Mehuron’s was closed until March 7. Canteen Creemee reopened shortly after the fire. The yarn shop, Infinite Sports and the drug store remain closed.
Kinney Drugs in Waterbury will continue to provide prescription deliveries free of charge to The Valley and company president Rebecca Bubel said employees of the Waitsfield pharmacy were all currently employed in Waterbury.
Asked what made reopening the pharmacy so difficult, Judy Cowden, senior director of marketing and advertising for Kinney Drugs, said it was not that reopening was impossible nor was there a specific issue with insurance or the landlord or the property.
“It was a difficult decision that the company made. There’s not a specific issue that made it impossible. It’s just very challenging and the company had to make a call,” Cowden said.
Asked if the decision was unalterable, given how upset people are to be losing their local pharmacy, Cowden said the decision was not a joyful decision but one that the company had been looking at for quite a few months.
She said that there were significant delays in restoring the local pharmacy due to COVID-19 closures that closed Vermont and cleanups and reconstruction work locally, as well as in other Kinney locations across the Northeast.
“We’ve had to make a lot of difficult decisions with our operations to pivot to come out of the impact of COVID,” she said.
Asked whether local lobbying could change the decision, she said, “I’m not the decision maker. If there are community concerns, they can be channeled through my email.”
Eric Friedman, executive director of the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce, said that it was discouraging for The Valley to lose its pharmacy because of how many people it serves and how many services it provides.
“I’m hopeful that another chain or independent might see an opportunity here and the chamber will support that. It’s important to keep in mind that it’s not just us, its our visitors who are reliant on and expect a pharmacy to be available to them,” Friedman said.