Cook’s, a Henry County institution since 1964, will close its three pharmacies when CVS Pharmacy opens later this year in Eminence.
Roger Cook opened the pharmacy, which would celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2014, first in Eminence and also had a toy store on the corner across from city hall in the 1970s. By the 1980s, Cook had built the present Eminence store site and combined the pharmacy with a retail store that offered hardware supplies.
Current co-owner George McDannold said the decision to sell to CVS is bittersweet.
“You could compete with them (CVS), but you would lose some business and if you lost 20 to 30 percent of sales, which would be conservative, you would have to spend money to last with them a year let alone five or 10 years,” McDannold said. “It would eventually affect jobs and gradually it would be negative.”
McDannold said he and co-owner Wayne Sparrow considered the situation.
“We debated for a while. I don’t really remember a time frame and I wouldn’t want to say anything without Wayne or put words in his mouth,” McDannold said. “But they don’t give you a lot of time. They want to move on with you or without you.”
According to McDannold, the developers started acquiring property before CVS approached the two owners.
“I can’t say when exactly they approached us, but it is bittersweet. It was an opportunity and we could beat our heads against the wall and try and compete, but in the past we had independents that would want to buy just the pharmacy,” McDannold said. “It would be hard to find someone to buy all three places. It would require someone with deep pockets and there’s just not too many that would.”
McDannold said CVS personnel met with employees from all three locations last week. The CVS personnel said they would open the CVS Eminence location in seven months, but McDannold doesn’t want to speak for the company.
“They operate on their own timeline and I don’t want to speak for them,” McDannold said. “They did say they would be back in three months to interview employees who wanted to apply for the store. I would hope some folks would give the opportunity to interview with CVS and give them a chance.”
The Cook’s pharmacy and hardware stores employ a little more than 50 people throughout the county, offers prescription delivery and has given freely to charity organizations and sponsored many youth sports team over the last 49 years.
“We’ve always given (to charities) and the last couple of years we cut down from what we used to give,” McDannold said. “We’ve always sponsored two or three teams sometimes in the same league. I always felt the moral obligation to give back to the community. We still give more than the average company. When you look at it and see there isn’t enough money for a kid to play baseball you give to help make that happen and there is huge amount of goodwill in return.”
McDannold came to Eminence around 1974. Roger and his father Troy Cook had begun the business in Eminence and sought McDannold as a partner.
“I had just gotten out of pharmacy school. I had been out for a couple of years about 1974 and Martha (Roger Cook’s widow), being my cousin, Roger knew I had finished pharmacy school,” McDannold said. “I lived and grew up in Covington, I guess he was looking for a partner. He and his dad were already in business but they wanted someone else so they came and talked to me.”
McDannold said the Cooks were originally in the Ellis Hotel and moved their location next to the bank’s present drive thru.
“Phyllis West ran the toy store across the street and then we put everything under one roof in 1980,” McDannold said. “Troy Cook was still living and he was still a partner. We put the store in Campbellsburg in 1976 after the tornadoes and moved down the street to the present store in 1986 when we put in the hardware store.”
McDannold and Sparrow are considering keeping the hardware store in Campbellsburg open. Albeit just an idea, McDannold said as a co-owner the partners would feel better about it.
“We are going to try and keep that store open. It’s no more than a thought right now, I don’t want to be actively involved in day-to-day retail. I really need to take some time off, but it’s something we are thinking about it,” McDannold said. “We care about the people and the community and we know one store won’t replace three but we are considering it.”
McDannold said he looks forward to having time off after some health complications.
“I have had one heart attack and I don’t like to use it as a crutch, but you think about that,” McDannold said. “I am just kind of tired. I am just really so worn out. When you work for so long you don’t make time for family and I will look forward to that. The pressure is you can either compete with them and borrow a lot of money and I don’t want to do that at my age, whether that is pressure or the facts of life. You’re actually just realizing your limits as you get older and don’t have the energy to do what you used to do when you were young. I don’t want to work myself into another heart attack.”
McDannold said they will try to find tenants for the Eminence location and possibly sell the store.
McDannold loves to play golf, hike and go white water rafting. His raft hit a rock in the Grand Canyon, crushing his pelvis and McDannold had to be airlifted out. He hopes to finish that journey while his health still permits.
“I hope to attend a few grandbaby birthdays,” McDannold said. “You realize you are getting older and can’t do as much.”
Cook’s is pretty much a tradition and an institution McDannold said.
“You’re not going out at the top of your game, but you are not going out bankrupt,” McDannold said. “I’m not a Cook but I’m pretty proud of the name. Wayne and I both grew up with Cook’s and my children were in events sponsored by Cook’s.
“I will miss people. I do like my employees and I will miss them. I’m not a very talkative person and I’m not a good communicator — probably if I was a better people person people wouldn’t be so bent out of shape with me. There’s a lot of better ways to say things. It will be a lot different. I just hope my employees know that we have their best interests at heart, but I think it will just take some time.”
Roger and Martha Cook’s daughter Kelly Cook Smith said the Cook family is still sorting their feelings out.
“I really am having a hard time right now with all of this as well as all of my family,” Smith wrote. “My grandfather, grandmother and my parents moved to Eminence the year I was born and community has been a dinner conversation ever since. Change is good, but also sometimes it is the hardest thing we will ever have to do.”