City Rexall staple for 100+ years

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, April 1, 2014

FAMILY OWNED: City Rexall Drugs has been owned and operated by the Griffin family for 67 years.  Photo by Alexandra Hedrick

FAMILY OWNED: City Rexall Drugs has been owned and operated by the Griffin family for 67 years.
Photo by Alexandra Hedrick

For 67 years, the Griffin family has owned and operated City Rexall, a pharmacy that has been a staple in Picayune for more than 100 years.

Before it became City Rexall in the 50s, it was known as City Drug Store and was owned by the Stovall family, said City Rexall Owner John Griffin.

Griffin said there are records that indicate City Drug Store was established in Picayune between 1903 and 1906, but he doesn’t have a specific date when it was founded.

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When Ben Griffin stopped working as a chemist for the government at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, he moved back to Mississippi and started working for the Stovall family at City Drug Store, which was located on the corner of Main Street and Canal Street.

In 1947, John Griffin said his father bought the pharmacy, which also had a soda fountain.

In 1965, his father moved the pharmacy to the Alexander Shopping Center, John Griffin said. When City Drug Store, now known as City Rexall, moved, the soda fountain didn’t follow.

“He said he reached a point where he either had to go into the restaurant business or pharmacy business, but he couldn’t do both,” John Griffin said.

John Griffin took over the business when his father died in 1985. He got his pharmacology degree from Ole Miss and spent a few years working as a pharmacist for Revco Drug Company before taking over the business.

He said he never thought he’d go into the pharmacy business and take over the store.

John Griffin said he has two brothers and two sisters and growing up they spent a lot of time at the pharmacy cleaning and helping out.

“When we left home we never wanted to set foot in another drug store,” John Griffin said.

Despite those sentiments, both John Griffin and one of his brothers became pharmacists and now two of his nieces are pharmacists. One niece, Laura Betsayad is even a pharmacist at City Rexall.

In 2006, City Rexall moved to the old farmer’s co-op, which John Griffin converted for the pharmacy.

John Griffin said he has seen a lot of changes over the years and has tried to stay on the cutting edge when it comes to computer systems because everything is now done through the Internet.

John Griffin said not all of the changes have been positive for the family business.

He said pharmacies used to be a free market and could set their own prices in order to be competitive. Now the federal government sets the price of drugs and reimburses the pharmacy for the medications that are purchased and then distributed.

He said sometimes what the pharmacy pays for medication is more than they are allowed to charge, causing the pharmacy to lose profit. He said this also leads to drug shortages.

Another aspect that is making it harder for family pharmacy businesses to continue their operations are insurance company preferred networks.

Preferred networks allow insurance companies to dictate where a patient fills a prescription.

John Griffin said its pharmacies like CVS and Walmart that benefit from preferred networks, not family businesses.

“I’ve got patients that have traded at this store since I was in diapers but now have to trade at CVS and Walmart because of their Medicare network,” John Griffin said.