Prairie Village retail icon Bruce Smith Drug closed for “restructuring,” hopes to reopen by end of month

Bruce Smith Drugs, a Prairie Village landmark since 1955, has closed for "restructuring."
Bruce Smith Drugs, a Prairie Village landmark since 1955, has closed for “restructuring.”

Bruce Smith Drugs, a Prairie Village mom-and-pop retail landmark that’s served the community since 1955, closed Monday for “restructuring” after struggling financially for many months.

Debbie Richmond, pharmacy manager and daughter of owner Bill Richmond, said the management decided to shut its doors to provide  time to determine a business strategy for moving forward. She hoped it could reopen by the end of this month.

“We’re struggling financially and trying to get through it,” Richmond said. “It’s been a long haul for us. We’re one of the last independents. We’re rare anymore and it’s caught up to us with the price of drugs and insurance companies telling people where to go.”

The Prairie Village shopping center location was where Bruce Smith Drugs began. Bill Richmond started as a soda jerk there before becoming a pharmacist and ultimately buying the business from its namesake.

In its heyday in the 1960s, there were four Bruce Smith Drugs in the metro including one in the Country Club Plaza. The Plaza store closed in the 1990s.

The decline of Bruce Smith Drugs has been an evident for many months. The pharmacy has had difficulty filling prescriptions and in some cases has told customers to go elsewhere for their drug needs. Fewer other products also have been on the shelves.

Gayla Tocco, a Prairie Village resident, said her family has shopped at Bruce Smith for more than 30 years. Then in June, she was told the store couldn’t fill what she considered to be a common prescription.

“We always could count on them,” Tocco said. “It was a friendly place and I personally feel bad for them.”

Bruce Smith Drug customers are being greeted with a sign instructing them to find a new pharmacist.
Bruce Smith Drug customers are being greeted with a sign instructing them to find a new pharmacist.

Now, there’s a sign taped to the store door telling people to contact their physician to have their prescription transferred to another pharmacy. All prescription orders not already picked up have been canceled.

Richmond said it was too early to tell whether the store may wind up under different ownership or how they hope to reopen.

“A group of us affiliated with the store are trying to figure out what the best approach is moving forward,” she said. “We’re working with our wholesalers and others. I can’t say where we’re at, there are a lot of options out there.”

She did say the shopping center landlord, First Washington Realty, is aware of the situation. Michelle Pitsenberger, regional property manager for First Washington, said the firm wants to work with Bruce Smith Drugs moving forward.

“We recognize the important role Bruce Smith Drugs plays in the Prairie Village community, and in the lives of its customers,” she said. “We fully support this business and are doing what we can to ensure its continued success.”