Brothers provide unique service

Wayne Foster led the way to the Boalsburg Apothecary compounding lab, possibly the only one in the Centre Region, with his younger brother, Neil, in tow.

The moment was fitting, because Neil Foster followed in his older brother’s footsteps to become a pharmacist.

“I don’t know why he got into pharmacy, but I know I copied him,” Neil Foster said.

“I wanted to do something in science,” Wayne Foster said. “It was something I was good at, and I didn’t want to go into medical school at the time. Our father worked at a pharmacy, and I remember going there as a kid, and I guess that stuck with me.”

Neil Foster owns Boalsburg Apothecary, and the two brothers run it together. Wayne Foster runs the drug store’s compounding lab where he and a technician custom-make medications for people and pets.

Neil Foster runs the rest of the pharmacy.

“I think the compounding accounts for about 20 percent of the business we get,” Neil Foster said.

He recently invested in two new machines for the compounding center, a move that will allow them to expand their services.

“We can do more and more with pain-relieving topical creams and ointments,” Neil Foster said. “That’s a new area we’re in that allows us to do more complex formulas, and it also opens up new possibilities for wound care and dental problems, too.”

“What I enjoy about this pharmacy and particularly the compounding is that it’s challenging,” Wayne Foster added. “We’re problem-solvers when people can’t take this dosage or this exact formula or their pet won’t take a medicine unless it’s in a gel. It’s not the normal routine for most pharmacies.”

The brothers, who have separately owned independent pharmacies, took a less-traveled road to working together.

Wayne Foster was hired by former Boalsburg Apothecary co-owners Mark and Jean Doyle in 2001 and learned about the compounding lab. He gained expertise in compounding medications when the pharmacy joined the Professional Compounding Centers of America.

“They’re an organization with a tremendous amount of knowledge, formulas and support that I needed to feel comfortable compounding,” Wayne Foster said.

The cohesion between the brothers made Neil Foster’s decision to buy the business easy.

He bought the drug store in November 2012, because he wanted to get back into working retail pharmacy after he worked in a long-term care pharmacy for about 10 years.

“When I was in long-term care pharmacies I didn’t have direct contact with patients,” Neil Foster said. “This was a good opportunity to get back to retail pharmacy, because I can be in contact with people, and we’re able to provide something that’s critical that couldn’t be provided by a big-box store.”

They learned from their parents that providing a unique service is just one part of the formula needed to run a successful small business.

“Growing up we lived in our dad’s restaurant waiting tables and pumping gas as little kids,” Neil Foster said. “It was called Foster’s. It was kind of like a ‘Happy Days’ from back in the 1960s.”

“They did a lot of jobs and ran that business,” Wayne Foster said. “It’s an occupation you work hard at just like in pharmacy.”

The brothers’ days working together are numbered.

It depends on when Wayne Foster decides to retire.

“I’ve been a fixture here, but I’m slowing down,” Wayne Foster said. “It’s nice in a way, because I’m starting my three days a week ... It’s my New Year’s schedule.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Neil Foster said. “Maybe one of these days, but Wayne has always been a few steps ahead of me.”