Small Business

Daniel’s Pharmacy: Where Caring About Customers Comes First

Pharmacist Ed Nasrah, front, looks over prescriptions while George Nasrah, store manager, greets a customer at Daniel’s Pharmacy on Geneva Avenue. Below: A canister of medication. NANCY CHAN/INGLESIDE-EXCELSIOR LIGHT

Since 1949, Daniel’s Pharmacy on Geneva Avenue has provided the personal service that only a family-owned small business can.

Today, Daniel’s is managed by the Nasrah family. Iyad “Ed” Nasrah purchased the business with his brothers’ help from Vivian Jennai in 1990. At the time, Vivian was exhausted from running the pharmacy mostly on her own after her husband, the titular Daniel, passed away.

Ed, his family’s sole pharmacist, keeps the shop open with Marvin, Neil and George Nasrah, along with other relatives and friends. Together they go the extra mile by learning who their customers are and providing specialized medicine packages that eliminate guesswork.

“You get to the point where you’re comfortable around customers. Then you know their personal history, so you know when they’re feeling indifferent or ill,” Ed says. “The more you know about somebody, the more you can take care of them.”

Ed and his longtime friend Steve Protzel, the pharmacist in charge, have 28 and 42 years of pharmacy experience respectively between them. They’ve welcomed customers from all walks in life, greeting each one with a warm attitude and a smile.

Ed was a Safeway pharmacist from 1986 to 1990 until his family acquired Daniel’s Pharmacy. Steve owned his own pharmaceutical practice for 20 years and was employed by Safeway for 14, leaving the supermarket chain after he felt management didn’t prioritize the right thing.

“I disagreed with Safeway politically. I had to report to an upper echelon that had me do busy work that detracted from my work as a pharmacist,” Steve says. “My comfort level dipped.”

When Ed asked Steve to work with him instead, Steve agreed. They both maintain that a pharmacy’s purpose is to serve the community.

“When you’re at Walgreens and wait in line, the people behind the counter don’t know who you are,” Steve says. “Not to knock Walgreens, of course. They have well-meaning pharmacists that care about their patients. But what separates our store from them is our personalized service.”

The idea is to always be patient-friendly.

“Taking care of people is what we live by,” Steve says. “If I worried about money first and health second, I wouldn’t be doing this job. People’s health come first.”

A medication canister.

The store’s main clientele is elderly citizens who need more help with their health. To meet their needs more efficiently, a Synmed machine was incorporated into its operations in 2013.

Synmed is an automatic dispensing system that does work that isn’t already done by hand. Once connected to a database, Synmed categorizes blister packs according to the medications needed for a specific customer, placing exact amounts from canister to pack depending on the name inputted.

One machine contains around 400 to 500 medicines at a given time, each one treating a specific medical condition. The oval-shaped Simvastatin, for example, is dusty pink and used to regulate high cholesterol. Xarelto is rendered in burnt orange triangles and a treatment for blood clots or strokes.

“Over the years, some medicines became neater, cleaner and more sophisticated for treatment. Other than that, it’s the same. I still practice the same way,” Steve says.

One pill could have four different strengths, which is when an expert’s judgement comes into play. If customer’s prescription asks for a lowered dosage, the store’s in-house pharmacists cuts pills as needed before sealing the package.

Each package is arranged in rows with captions to ensure a customer knows exactly what they’re taking on a weekly or monthly basis.

In the rare event a medication isn’t in stock, it’s ordered from one of their wholesalers such as Amerisource and shipped within a day.

Customers have the option of having packages mailed to them for free over local pickup. Daniel’s Pharmacy also serves as a bill payment center for PG&E and AT&T telephone bills or a post office thanks to their USPS Contract Postal Unit.

Daniel’s CPU has been operating since 2006. Postal clerk Wayne M. estimates 40 percent of the sales made are shipped to China, while “a good portion” of regulars are people selling things on eBay or Poshmark.

In addition to the usual clientele, Wayne sometimes sees other familiar faces during work hours.

“There are people who I went to grade school with 50 years ago and they’ll drop by and say hi,” Wayne says.

Familiarity with those who live in the neighborhood is among Daniel’s core values and one that it’ll stick with, even on long days when the team is short-staffed.

“The whole industry is changing. Loyalty is not what it used to be. Where it’s headed, who knows, with all the big-box stores like Walgreens and CVS,” Ed says. “Amazon is trying to work out deals. Everyone wants a piece of the pie.”

Yet, Ed isn’t worried. “I take everything one day at a time. We’re still family in here,” he says.

Daniel’s Pharmacy is located 943 Geneva Ave. and can be reached at (415) 584-2210.

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