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Riverside Pharmacy celebrates 57 years
Former owner still works at the business 5 days a week
Riverside Pharmacy celebrated its 57th anniversary Tuesday evening with a party at First Baptist Church. Pharmacists Charlie Johnson, left, and Jo Ann Adams, left center, originally started the business on Riverside Drive. Johnson, Adams and longtime pharmacists Wayne Gee, center right, and James Hollis, right, were honored during the evening’s event.

Jo Ann Adams remembers a time when prescriptions were filled by hand, when she carefully poured powders into capsules behind the counter at Riverside Pharmacy. They pounded out labels on typewriters, she said, and wrote out every ticket.

"We had a boy named Raleigh Tanner and he delivered prescriptions on his bicycle," Adams, 83, said.

Fifty-seven years later, the pharmacists at Riverside are still at work. Their jobs are a bit different. But for the most part, employees say, things haven't changed much there.

The pharmacists still know their customers by name.
Prescriptions are still delivered to front doors.
The place still feels like home.

At an anniversary party Tuesday night, the original owners of Riverside Pharmacy, the oldest pharmacy in Hall County, gathered together to remember the beginning of it all.

Adams and Charlie Johnson, 84, who opened the store in 1954, stood in the center of the Parlor at First Baptist Church. Next to them was Wayne Gee, 73, who started working there in 1964 and later bought the pharmacy.

Friends, family and employees - most who fall into more than one of those categories - lined the walls of the room.

"Wayne, you've been like a father to me," said Scottie Barton, who bought the store with Gee's son, Steve, last year. "I appreciate everything you've done for me. You encouraged me to go to pharmacy school."

Adams started to tell the story of Riverside. She and Johnson worked together at Piedmont Pharmacy, one of four drug stores in Gainesville at the time, all of which were on the downtown square.

They had finished high school together in 1943 and in 1947, Adams graduated college. After returning from World War II, Johnson graduated in 1949.

"You were smarter than me," Johnson joked.

The friends wanted to venture out on their own. So they opened Riverside on Jan. 8, 1954.

"You all are still helping customers that traded with us," Adams said, looking around the room.

"And their children," one man added.

"And their grandchildren," another said.

Barton put on a slide show and the group watched old black and white photos flash on the screen.

"We just had so many people that traded with us and lots and lots of folks that believed in us," Adams said. "And we got a few of the customers from those drug stores downtown."

Many in the room Tuesday night got their start at Riverside as teenagers and still work there.

Twenty-three-year-old Brittany Woody, one of the youngest in the room, started working there when she was 17.

"It's nice to work for a family and a company that cares so much for its community and its customers," she said.

That's what's always set Riverside apart, back when it first opened up until today, Wayne Gee said.

"We felt like each customer that took the time to trade with us deserved more than just a package handed to them," he said.

The former owner still works there about five days a week, although his son jokes that it's more like eight.

"I love being around the people," Wayne Gee said. "I might not fill a prescription. But I just sit there and talk."

He still knows the names of just about every person who walks through the door. When he worked behind the counter, he was known to hold the ticket for more than a few customers down on their luck, his son said.

"Come back and pay me when you can," he would tell them.

As she walked around the room, talking with the people who still feel the reach of a pharmacy she helped start more than half a century ago, Adams teared up a few times.

"It's just special to me to know they care," she said. "I'm just so grateful for the man upstairs for letting me have all of this."


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