Photo by Sabrina Romano
Don Waltmire (center) with new owner Fred Depasquale (right) and long-time pharmacist Carol Bartolac inside the newly rebuilt Waltmire Pharmacy on 1435 Spring Garden Ave.
By Sabrina Romano
The past eight months have been out of the ordinary, to say the least, for Don Waltmire and his customers. A fire burned down his long-standing Waltmire Pharmacy in Spring Garden on July 8, and from July 21-Dec. 8, Waltmire operated out of a trailer. On top of that, Waltmire retired in February as new owner, Fred Depasquale, took over.
Instead of closing for good, Waltmire decided to serve the community that he’s been such a staple in for so long.
“I did it because of the customers. I wanted to make sure that they still had a place to come back to and also for my employees, I wanted them to still have a job,” Waltmire said. “After being here for 30 years and creating such a nice community business and relationship with all of my customers, I just hated to walk away that way.”
After the fire, Waltmire rushed to set up a temporary pharmacy in a 40-foot shipping container, but the State Board of Pharmacy wouldn’t approve the site.
“It wasn’t easy because you had to get all the technology, you had to get the security system, the phone system, the internet system, plus all the shelving and the countertop,” Waltmire said. “There was a lot to make it function.”
Through his determination, though, Waltmire was approved just 13 days after the fire.
“There was only enough room for a couple of people to stand in there at a time,” Waltmire said of the cramped quarters. “(The customers) would take turns waiting outside the trailer to get their prescriptions.”
During the five-month rebuild, Waltmire was constantly grateful for the community’s support.
“From day one with the fire, people would stop down and offer their assistance and their help in anything I needed to do with rebuilding,” Waltmire said. “They brought down food. They brought down cards. Even money people tried to give me.”
Waltmire has been filling some of his customers’ prescriptions for over 30 years.
“We started back on June 25, 1984 up at the Shop N’ Save and they went out of business in 2003. We’ve been here since,” Waltmire said of his beginning.
After over 40 years as a pharmacist in Northside, Waltmire’s decision to sell the pharmacy and retire felt right.
“I have been a pharmacist for 42 years and I have owned the store here for almost 31 and I am going to be 65 in August. With all of those factors and also being very tired after rebuilding from the fire, it really wore me out,” Waltmire said.
One reason Waltmire chose Depasquale is because he plans on keeping everything the same.
“He is going to keep the name of the pharmacy the same, and keeping all these employees,” Waltmire explained.
Depasquale will also improve the pharmacy by offering in-store vaccines, according to Waltmire.
Looking back at the rebuilding process and working out of a trailer, Waltmire said it was definitely an experience.
“When I look back now, it is almost fondly because it was just so different and unique,” Waltmire said. “I have never worked in an atmosphere like that but we all pulled together and just made it work.”
Sabrina Romano is a student writer from Pitt.