Glen Sisak and Zenia Winnicki take a break from shelf-stocking at their new, expanded location in the Food Basics plaza, Fonthill. DON RICKERS

Addition nearly quadruples retail space

Pharmacist Glen Sisak, and his life and business partner Zenia Winnicki, have been five years at their Fonthill Marketplace location. With a surging customer base, they took an opportunity last fall to enlarge their PharmaChoice Family Health Pharmacy by expanding into a retail unit next door. The result of months of planning and construction opened—softly—last week.

“It’s a two-stage process,” said Zenia, a senior pharmacy technician. “We’ve renovated the new space first, then we’re turning our focus to the original part of the store for reconstruction.”

Taking over the unit next door adds 2700 square feet of pharmacy floor space, said Glen, who noted that pandemic conditions which require social distancing made it difficult to accommodate customers in the pharmacy’s old footprint.

“We crammed as much as we possibly could into the old space, violating all the laws of retail by turning products sideways and piling them on top of each other,” said Glen. “Adding shelf space will provide a better shopping experience for our customers, and allow us to stock a wider variety of products.”

The old location occupied about 5000 square feet, but was shared with a dental practice using about 1700, and doctors using 2400. Once the reno is completed, the operation will total about 7700 square feet of space, with the pharmacy using 3600—almost quadruple the old store’s footprint.

Glen and Zenia often interact with the doctors and dentist on site, which they see as a plus for their customers. With ongoing residential and commercial development in East Fonthill, they said that now was the time to capitalize on the growing market.

“In Covid times, people have been shrinking their circle of contacts, trying to stay safe,” said Zenia. “Many are now reluctant to go to big-box stores like Costco and Walmart, and with gasoline prices so high, people are making the decision to have a more personal experience, and shop closer to home.”

The couple take pride in the fact that many of their regular customers refer to their PharmaChoice store as a modern pharmacy with an old-fashioned approach. They don’t sell food products like Shoppers Drug Mart, where the pair worked for a collective 35 years. With Food Basics just a quick stroll down the plaza, they are happy to point people in that direction for their kitchen staples.

Since we’re not constrained by corporate directives, we’ll be able to stock different product lines not available in conventional chain pharmacies

Zenia suggested that natural lines of skin care products, hair colouring, and cosmetics would be available with the expansion, along with a wider selection of specialty first aid bandages, braces, and a range of other products.

“Since we’re not constrained by corporate directives, we’ll be able to stock different product lines not available in conventional chain pharmacies,” she said.

The pharmacy staff includes Glen and Zenia, two pharmacy assistants, and a front-of-store manager to handle merchandising. Glen suggested that they may indeed be over-staffed, “since Zenia does the work of five people,” he said with a chuckle.

The two are proud to be Pelham residents as well as business operators. Zenia is a lifelong Pelham resident, having grown up in Fenwick farming country and attending E. L. Crossley for her high school years, she said. Glen, by comparison, is a Toronto transplant.

“I was the innovator of the Toronto influx to Pelham,” he said with a laugh. “I arrived here in 1989 to be the director of pharmacy at the hospital in Niagara Falls, where I worked for 11 years. The transition to retail came later.”

A grand reopening celebration will take place once the second phase is completed, likely sometime in September.

PharmaChoice is located in the centre of the Fonthill Marketplace plaza, at 130 Highway 20 East. They are open 8:30 AM to 7 PM, Monday to Friday, and Saturday 9 AM to 5 PM. Closed Sundays. To speak with Glen or Zenia about a health-related issue, or their expanding range of products, call 905-892-1880.