Industry-wide staffing issues a problem locally
By Robert Willams
Seip Drug, the long-awaited first tenant of Frazee’s new $1.5 million downtown retail space, has moved out of their old location, down the block and into the new digs on East Main Avenue.
The pharmacy officially moved last Monday, while the retail portion of the store began a week prior to that.
The change was a welcome upgrade to employees.
“Obviously, a newer building, nice and clean, bright; we have more space in the pharmacy and a little more up front. We were pretty squished in the old place. We have a lot more room and a lot more counter space.”April Johnson, pharmacist at Seip Drug in Frazee
Not everything has made its way between the two buildings. One of the last stragglers is the collection of greeting cards, which are scheduled to be in the new store early this week.
“Be patient with us as we get organized and obviously it’s taking a while to get that front end how we would like,” Johnson said. “There’s only so much you can do during the day while you’re trying to do your normal job.”
The change was not an easy one in transferring everything from old to new space. The pharmacy benefited from one orderly collection to another, but the retail portion of the store has gone through a few different formats for display.
“It had been there for years so you just know where everything was,” said Johnson. “Until you’re over here you don’t know where to put things. We’ve done a lot of rearranging out front. Where we thought it would work, it didn’t, so now we’re moving it to a different spot.”
The former building is emptied other than the cards, old records and unused shelving in the basement, including old documents from the former Detroit Lakes location.
After the first day of business, the change was noticeable to the employees and definitely an improvement in overall atmosphere. The old building is not missed.
“Not at all,” said Johnson. “I miss having everything in its spots, but I don’t miss that musty, dark, cold in the winter, hot in the summer.”
The former building may not be long for its own existence. City administrator Jordin Roberts and economic development consultant Don Lorsung are working on the next steps regarding the demolition of both the old Seip Drug and Sanders Oil buildings. The status of the current post office is also being discussed.
Over the past decade, the pharmacy industry has been riddled with staffing issues that affect the business as well as the personal lives of the employees. That, in turn, affects the customers.
The chain of Seip stores is no different. Nate Seip, the founder of Seip Drug, can even be found behind the pharmacy counter at one of the stores.
“We’re so short-staffed right now that he is filling in as a pharmacist where normally he’s in the New York Mills store,” Johnson said.
The Frazee location recently lost a key employee when Debbie Streiff and her husband David purchased The Palace Cafe.
“Very sad to see her go,” said Johnson. “I was hoping she would stay a few days just because she is so awesome. No such luck, I wish I could have kept her. I don’t blame her, but it’s hard to lose her.”
One new amenity at the new location is a future drive-thru, however, the current set-up from enough tills to employees will keep the drive-thru shut down.
“As of now, we’re not utilizing it just because we don’t have the staff,” Johnson said. “We would need another cashier if we were running the drive-thru.”
The job is demanding and Johnson acknowledges the difficulties of working in the industry the past decade. Current workers are overwhelmed and hiring is not an easy task given the specifics of the pharmacy industry.
“It’s just hard to find people to work and definitely, pharmacists are hard to come by right now,” said Johnson. “It’s a tough job. We’re kind of the middle man. We’re in between the patient and the doctor or the patient and insurance. It’s a hard job.”
Johnson had a list of other pharmacies around the area that have limited their operating hours due to not having enough staff to cover a full 12-hour shift.
“I think it’s just a problem everywhere,” she said. “We’re definitely hiring, not necessarily for this store, but throughout the chain we’re looking for techs and pharmacists.”
Frazee’s location is one of a dozen Seip Drug stores (seipdrug.com) around the region stretching from Fargo to Morris to Park Rapids.