Opened in 1958, West Trenton Pharmacy on Bear Tavern Road is a classic neighborhood pharmacy. Pharmacist Joe Schoen and his staff offer personal and professional service to their customer.
Schoen grew up on South Olden near Cedar Lane as one of four brothers. His father had an automotive business, but a blue collar job wasn’t in Schoen’s future. When he was growing up, his father told him, “You are doing well in school, you are going to college.”
Schoen had worked for Vizzoni’s Pharmacy, the small independent pharmacy still located on South Broad Street on the border of Hamilton and Chambersburg, and he decided that he wanted to be a pharmacist himself. Schoen went on to earn his pharmacy degree from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.
Schoen has been the owner for about half of West Trenton Pharmacy’s 58-year history, and he is only its third owner. The business was founded by Walter Lettieri, and then in 1982, Bob Kocsardy bought the location from Letieri.
“I came on board in 1984, and purchased it in 1987,” Schoen said. “I’m now in my 29th year, and next March is our big anniversary.”
In addition to filling prescriptions, West Trenton Pharmacy has two lines of vitamins, a full line of over-the-counter medications and medical supplies. As with most larger pharmacies, they also sell beauty products, greeting cards, Russell Stover candy, picture frames and stationary.
“CVS opened nearby around 10 years ago,” Schoen said, “but it has not affected us. We offer prompt, professional service.”
There’s one important service West Trenton offers that you won’t get from the big chain pharmacies — free weekday prescription delivery within Ewing and in neighboring Lawrence Township and Trenton addresses.
“When CVS is out of items, they send their customers to us, and we generally have it in stock. We also have wholesale delivery five days a week. Nothing takes longer than the next morning at 11,” says Schoen. “We are not afraid to keep inventory.”
Schoen noted in the beginning he was doing $400,000 a year in sales. “Now it is $3.5 million a year, we have gotten that much busier.”
When he began in the 1980s, his wife, co-owner, and fellow pharmacist, Dr. Dawn Schoen, came in to help him when he was busy. Now he has two other pharmacists on staff, and Dawn works as a pharmacist for a home health care support company in Norristown, Pennsylvania. They also have 15 employees, including delivery staff. “We pretty much have no turnover. I think I’m a decent boss,” Schoen said.
“We have some long-term customers who have been coming here over 30 years, longer than I’ve been here, but that is a great thing,” he said. “You get to know them after a while.” He now sees children and grandchildren of his customers coming into his store.
When asked what sets him apart from the big chains, Schoen explains, “We have personal service, wonderful employees, most places don’t offer delivery, and we are readily available if customers have any questions.” He maintains the small town values that West Trenton Pharmacy was founded upon. They accept most prescription plans and most major credit cards.
Neither of the Schoen’s two children decided to follow their parents’ footsteps. Their older daughter, Katrina, went to MIT for mechanical engineering, and younger daughter Jenna went to Tufts. She is currently at Columbia studying medieval English and teaching undergraduates.
“Jenna is our liberal arts daughter,” Schoen said. “Katrina talked about it [becoming a pharmacist], but the way healthcare is going, my wife talked her out of it.”
West Trenton Pharmacy, 618 Bear Tavern Road. Phone: (609) 882-3131, fax: (609) 882-7926. Hours: Monday-Friday: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed Sunday.