By Michael Bradley
Special to Delaware Business Times
A spiritual guru told Jay Patel to start a business in Delaware.
It was March 2015, and Patel had just returned from a trip to Gujarat, India. While visiting relatives and Hindu temples, Patel debated whether to keep his job at Walgreens or start his own independent pharmacy.
Patel chose the entrepreneurial route, but one question remained: Should he open his pharmacy in Scranton, where his family network was strong, or should he put down roots in Delaware? He reached out to the guru for help.
The guru advised Patel to choose Delaware, and the rest is history. That November, Greenhill Pharmacy opened at Fourth Street and Greenhill Avenue in Wilmington. In 2016, Patel opened a second location downtown on Market Street near the Grand Opera House.
“Looking back, I wouldn’t have been as successful in Scranton,” Patel said.
More than two years later, the 29-year old pharmacist and entrepreneur is making a bid to turn Greenhill into a regional chain. In August, a third Greenhill Pharmacy is set to open open in Milford, and a fourth is slated to open in northeast Philadelphia the following month.
A 2013 graduate of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, Patel worked for two years at Walgreen’s before he struck out on his own with former classmates Josh Kim and Jigar Patel as partners.
Patel attributes his success to Greenhill’s hands-on approach to customer service and patient care.
“We help people navigate the complex insurance system and work with physicians so patients get the best medicine at the most affordable price. We can help mitigate the costs and then back the savings into programs for patients,” Patel said.
Since launching, Patel has forged relationships with a variety of local organizations. One partner, AIDS Delaware, helps HIV-positive individuals manage their condition and often works directly with pharmacies to obtain the proper medication.
“There are a lot of long-term maladies that can develop over time if you have HIV,” said Lori Campbell, director of client services. “A lot of people are on blood pressure medication, cholesterol medication and have diabetes.”
It can be difficult, Campbell said, keeping track of the numerous medications required to manage HIV and related conditions. “You have to stay on top of it all and make sure you have your meds,” she said.
Greenhill helps patients put together monthly planners to organize what medicines need to be taken and when. In addition, AIDS Delaware and Greenhill established a 340B pharmacy together to help make prescription drugs more affordable for at-risk populations.
Patel and his staff work with physicians and insurers to “make sure the patient gets the best medicine at the most affordable price,” he said.
Even as chain pharmacies continue to add locations, independent shops like Greenline are holding their own.
In 2016, Delaware had 38 community pharmacies with $137 million in sales, 2.27 million prescriptions filled and 357 full-time employees, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).
“What characterizes community pharmacies, other than that they are locally owned, is that they are incredibly nimble and can customize treatments for patients, something that isn’t what we see from chain pharmacies,” said Scott Brunner, senior VP of communications and state and government affairs for the NCPA.
“They can provide consultations on weight loss and smoking cessation, along with chronic conditions,” Brunner added. “That helps lessen health-care costs overall.”
As Greenhill prepares for its expansion, Patel said the company won’t let growth change its approach to customer service.
“People on specialty medications, especially if they are older, know the level of service they want, and they are not finding it from chain stores,” Patel said. “We want to provide that.”