By JOY CRIST
Though making a recent move to close on Saturdays due to financial reasons, the Beach Pharmacy in Hatteras plans to remain open for its scheduled 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday hours, despite being in the midst of a building overhaul.
During construction, which began on Monday and will continue within the pharmacy portion of the three-unit building for the next two weeks, the pharmacy will temporarily reconfigure its interior set up.
“We’re going to set up a temporary pharmacy in the front of the store, and we’re going to try to do that over the weekends so it does not interrupt service,” says longtime pharmacist Steve Evans. “If customers need something from up front [that’s inaccessible], like over the counter drugs, we’ll get it for them – all they have to do is ask us.”
The moving and temporary set-up has caused extra work in the way of long nights and weekends for Steve and his staff, but it’s all part of the pharmacy’s longstanding commitment to staying open, no matter what. “I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if we couldn’t be open,” he says. “People have to have their medication and closing would be a tremendous hardship for people here, and on Ocracoke Island.”
The remodeling is due to damage caused by October 2016’s Hurricane Matthew. During the storm, 20 inches of water poured into the pharmacy, causing damage to a number of over-the-counter medications as well as the first shelf of prescription medications in the pharmacy portion of the store. Even so, it was open just two days after the Sunday storm, and has remained so ever since.
Now, construction is underway to undo the structural damage caused by the storm.
“They’ve got to take all the walls out, all the way down the building in all three units, replace all the shelving, and do sheet rock insulation [for] anything that may have gotten wet,” says Steve. “Then they have to go in the outside of the building and replace all the metal, as it’s already started rusting away.”
The complete overhaul to the building itself will take time, but the temporary pharmacy set-up will only be in place for a couple of weeks.
“Right now, when you walk in the door, the pharmacy is to the left,” says Steve. “It’s raised up about 12” right now and we’ve got to tear those boards out. In order to do that, we have to move the drugs, and the computers, to the front of where the pharmacy is now.”
“We do that on the weekends and at night,” he says. “It makes for long days, and sleepless nights, but you do what you got to do.”
When the road washed out after 2003’s Hurricane Isabel, Steve came to the water-locked Hatteras village on the first boat and immediately set up a route so that the Avon store could get prescription transfers, fill them, and send them to back to Hatteras.
Steve also has worked with the Coast Guard on several occasions to get prescriptions to Ocracoke during emergencies, which has been a blessing on more than one occasion.
“I remember one time after a storm – a winter storm – the roads got washed out in Ocracoke,” he says. “[My friend] took me over to Ocracoke on his boat, and I about froze to death on that trip… When the Coast Guard volunteered to help the next day, I was like ‘Thank you, Jesus!’”
Steve, who has been at the pharmacy since 1991 and lives in Nags Head, says that the lengths that he and his staff go to in order to remain open, regardless of the obstacle, is simply due to a labor of love.
“There’s a reason I travel down here from Nags Head. If you don’t enjoy your work, and the people you’re working with, it wouldn’t be much fun, would it?” he says.
“I’ve had a lot of people ask me, ‘Steve, why have you been traveling 130 miles round trip to go to work in Hatteras village?’ All I can say is I love Hatteras.’”
“It’s a pretty trip down, and the people here are like family.” he adds. “I love doing what I’m doing. It’s not a Walmart, or a Kmart or a Walgreens – we don’t punch a clock, and if someone needs something, we make arrangements to get it to them somehow. We do what we’ve got to do.”