September 23, 2020

Downeast Pharmacy tightens> Brunswick site to end prescription service

BRUNSWICK — The only independently owned drugstore chain in Maine will stop filling prescriptions at its flagship store Saturday as it moves to fend off competition from large national chains.

Downeast Pharmacy also has sold 12 of its 17 stores.

Downeast founder Michael Fiori cited increased prescription competition from Rite Aid — which has two stores within three miles of his flagship Brunswick store — as well as from Wal-Mart and area supermarkets, whose huge buying power makes it difficult for independent druggists to compete.

Downeast Pharmacy opened for business in 1984, just when national chains started swallowing up local competition.

Over the years, Fiori has been an advocate of social responsibility, refusing to sell tobacco products, alcohol or toy weapons in his stores. He also offered free delivery to clients too ill to shop in person.

At its peak, Downeast had 16 stores in Maine and one in Vermont. But while Fiori gained national attention for his emphasis on social concerns, some of his stores were losing money.

Fiori said his Brunswick store will concentrate on selling other medical supplies, but there is a strong possibility it will have to close.

“We were, and still are, very successful in some communities — Sanford, Boothbay Harbor and a new store we opened in Fort Kent in May. The market is just oversaturated in Brunswick,” he said.

Fiori cautioned against reading too much into the recent decision affecting the Brunswick store.

“I haven’t made a decision to abandon the retail pharmacy business per se,” he said. “I have no problem maintaining the remaining stores as long as they continue to hold their own.”

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