Co-op Spotlight: Community Pharmacy

“Community pharmacy” is such a simple phrase. It evokes your short walk to the neighborhood pharmacy, good advice from people you trust, and a resource you can come back to throughout your whole life. For those of us who work at Commu­nity Pharmacy, it’s also a mission. We believe in providing person-to-person care and honest health infor­mation. We involve ourselves with grassroots health organizations that serve the different cultural, political, gender, economic and spiritual com­munities within our city. As a part of the Madison community health care system, Community Pharmacy is committed to providing resources for health and wellness in everyday life and a wide range of health care options. We offer access to health information from different medici­nal modalities to encourage educa­ted choices and offer a variety of health care products from which to choose.


Community Pharmacy’s storefront at 341 State Street. Photo by the authors.

Commmunity Pharmacy (CP) began in 1972 as a UW-Madison Wisconsin Student Association-sponsored store to provide afford­able prescription medicine and basic body-care products to students and community members. Shortly after­wards, CP became an autono­mous entity, run collectively by workers and pharmacists. After two decades of thriving in downtown Madison, we reincorporated as a worker cooperative and began to view CP as a comprehensive health care resource for our community. We expanded our selection of health care products to include pharma­ceutical; nutritional supplements; herbs in bulk, capsules and tinc­tures; Chinese patent remedies; homeopathic remedies; skin and hair care items; informational books; and greeting cards.


Doreen Kunert and Jackie Nikolauss at Community Pharmacy’s herb counter. Photo by the authors.

There is no owner or manager of Community Pharmacy. The man­age­ment responsibilities of the store are handled by the entire staff, along with daily customer service and store maintenance duties. We use a team structure for ongoing manage­ment, which currently includes eight teams that focus on our store’s adver­tis­ing, business & book­keep­ing, buying, prescrip­tion dis­pen­sary, mail order, mer­chan­dising, outreach & education and personnel tasks. We solve problems cooperatively with our com­bined expertise. We make decisions collective­ly, informed by our diverse opinions and are personally invested in the growth and care of our bus­iness. We believe CP is more vital and sustainable because of our worker cooperative structure.

Today, after more than 38 years as a local health resource, Community Pharmacy is regarded as a welcom­ing place where customers know the staff will always treat them with re­spect and take the time to offer them individualized advice. Our pharma­cists and staff strive to integrate the principals of evidence-based phar­ma­ceuti­cal medicine with know­ledge of nutritional supple­ments and traditional herbal reme­dies to create a balance of wellness between pre­ventative and curative care. Our cooperative believes that access to accurate, unbiased health care infor­mation and affordable medication should be available to everyone.

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