Updated: Sep 29
Photo by Sonja Reis
The only pharmacy in McKees Rocks, Rite Aid, will be shuttering its doors and transferring its prescriptions to other area locations on Oct. 4.
By Editorial Board
In 2019, Rite Aid released its inaugural Corporate Social Responsibility report and in 2022 – with the 'fanfareless' closure of the McKees Rocks location – promptly forgot it.
What's a CSR, you ask?
It's a long-term plan where a business addresses the needs of the customers, communities and employees while also focusing on social, economic and environmental impact.
In the Pennsylvania-based retail drugstore's report "demonstrating commitment to CSR initiatives," it also says they prioritize economic, environmental and social responsibility.
"Rite Aid works to continuously improve the health and wellness of the communities it serves."
Until it doesn't.
Rite Aid pulled up stakes in a community where more than 40% of households are without access to an automobile.
McKees Rocks, and Stowe for that matter, now have nowhere for those who walk or use public transportation to access a pharmacy.
They’re also abandoning a 14-year lease, leaving another empty storefront.
The retail drug store didn't even admit to closure. Signage sent down from corporate gives two weeks notice and indicates "We're moving and we've packed your prescriptions..."
The thought process taken by the decision makers in the corporation probably went something like this, 'Why does McKees Rocks need two stores? They don't.'
Whoever was responsible for the decision probably doesn't realize the second 15136 location is in Kennedy Township, a town with a vastly different socio-economic status and access to three other pharmacies.
Yes, we know that in corporate America shareholders come first and Rite Aid as the third largest retail pharmacy - with emphasis on the retail - is struggling.
In 2018, Rite Aid sold off 1,800 locations to competitor Walgreens, which promptly closed 600 of the stores and converted the others.
Earlier this year, it was announced 143 unprofitable Rite Aid stores would be shuttered. McKees Rocks is one of those casualties.
Here's a suggestion: Why not trim the fat? Does Main Street America need bloated stores taking up prime real estate on busy corners, usually built at the expense of an already existing and much better-built site?
Back to those three other pharmacies in Kennedy (four when you count the Rite Aid built there at the expense of a long-standing sit-down Pizza Hut, a commercial space that housed Castelucci's Hair Salon and Barber Shop and Sally's Groom Room and one residential property)…
Does a pharmacy need to be heavy on the retail? No.
Bet you didn't know Pharmacy Care Pharmacy Services, a small family-owned business, opened inside the medical office side of Heritage Valley Kennedy about a year ago.
Then there's the familiar face of Ron 0cvirk and his team who run the Medicine Shoppe franchise on Pine Hollow Road.
You can't buy windchimes, greeting cards, potato chips, candy bars, laundry detergent or makeup, for that matter, at either of those pharmacies. And they don't seem to be suffering from that lack of consumer choice.
We're giving Kennedy Giant Eagle's pharmacy operations a pass as they are a side hustle for the grocery giant, much like the Starbucks rumored to soon be opening inside.
If Rite Aid wants to survive, it needs to go back to its pharmaceutical roots. We're talking much further back than 1968 when J.C. Penney purchased the Thrift Drug chain. They need to change with the times and embrace a pared down and small-town approach.
The actual McKees Rocks location had that small town feel where the team knew almost everyone who walked through its doors.
What it suffered from was massive overhead on items that customers could easily buy from nearby retailers at much better prices.
Thankfully, much of that team (many who have worked there for decades) will be making their way to the Kennedy location where they'll welcome their old customers with open arms. At least, Rite Aid did that right.