Many people in the Marshall County community are third and fourth generations of families who have loyally supported the family-owned J&R Pharmacy in Benton which is now, 65 years later, expanding to an additional location in Draffenville. Jim Wiseman RPh., 89, founder/owner, attributes that success to a simple philosophy: "You have to treat the customer the way you want to be treated."
"Anybody can do a little business and move on but we put our roots down here and we feel like this is home to us," Wiseman said. "We want the people who come in the door to feel like they're part of this family, like they're our extended family. We call about eight out of every 10 people who come in the door by their first name because they're people, not just a number.
"We have people coming in the door right now whose great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers started with us on the corner and those families have stayed with us through the 65 years, and you have to do something right to keep business that long," he added.
Sixty-five years later, J&R Pharmacy is expanding to an additional location in Draffenville between Food Giant and CFSB. Blake Wiseman, PharmD, Wiseman's grandson, said he envisions the entirety of the building as a "medical mall," where the community can one-stop shop for a multitude of medical needs. He said he's hoping to attract other medical professionals who will set up shop alongside them.
The 11,600 square foot facility has a two-story central building with 3,500 square feet of office space on the top floor and 3,500 square feet for the pharmacy on the bottom floor. Off to each side of the main building are two wings with more that 4,000 square feet of potential rental space--two tenants have already committed to utilizing a portion of that space: Mercy Health Lourdes Walk-In Clinic and Chick'nCone.
Kevin Compton, PR Manager representing Mercy Health, said the walk-in clinic will be open Monday through Friday and will feature a provider with several support staff in approximately 1,700 square feet of space with availability to expand that space in the future.
Michael Yungmann, CEO of Mercy Health - Lourdes Hospital said, "We're excited to be partnering with J & R Pharmacy on this wonderful facility and all it will bring to Draffenville and surrounding communities. The partnership is a first of its kind for our region. Our new walk-in clinic furthers our commitment to improving access to health care for the families of Marshall County and will serve as an extension of Mercy Health -- Marshall Family Medicine, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. Mercy Health is focused on easy access to the area's largest provider network, and we are committed to continue to find ways to deliver healthcare services for patients when they want it, and need it. Some of the ways we do this is through online scheduling, the availability of e-visits for our existing patients, extended hours at our primary care offices, and soon, through additional new walk-in access in Marshall County. We'd like to thank J & R Pharmacy for this strong partnership, and for the opportunity to provide additional services to the patients of Marshall County."
Courtnii Eutsler, who owns Chick'nCone with her husband, Jason, said they're excited to establish a brick-and-mortar restaurant in the place that has become home for their family.
"I'm native to Colorado and my husband is from Missouri, his job brought us to Kentucky in 2011 and Marshall County in 2012 and we just fell in love with community. Our kids made connections and we just love this area," she said. "We really feel Marshall County is where we want to put down our roots."
Eutsler said her brother established the business in New York, then she and Jason were able to start a franchise in Aug. 2018. They've been operating the business out of a tent at a variety of events across western Kentucky including BBQ On The River in Paducah, the upcoming WHO Fest in Sept. in Draffenville and Labor Day at Grand Rivers.
Chick'nCone offers portable waffle cones stuffed with crispy, diced chicken fingers tossed in one of several sauces ranging sweet to spicy. Eutsler said the menu also includes cajun fries and is frequently updated with additions, including seasonal classics like spicy mac and cheese in the fall and gravy with cranberry toppings around Thanksgiving.
Eutsler said in addition to seating inside the restaurant, they will also have a drive-thru. She said the building is scheduled for completion early next year and the restaurant should be ready to open in the spring. For more updates, follow the Chickn'Cone of West Kentucky Facebook page.
On Aug. 28 Wiseman will celebrate his 90th birthday and the family is planning a multi-faceted celebration including the 65th anniversary of the pharmacy, customer appreciation, groundbreaking at the site in Draffenville and the birthday of its founder.
Blake said everyone is invited to stop by the pharmacy at 817 Main Street in Benton between 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. for lunch and cake. The celebration will include special sales and there will be a giveaway every hour.
"We just want to highlight the day as much as possible for the customers because we wouldn't be here if it weren't for them," Blake said. "We have families who got medicine for their babies from us--and now those babies are working alongside us here at the pharmacy. It really is cool to see that our family has serviced parents and grandparents and now their children are coming in too and it's continuous. Our family appreciates them."
But the day is also a testament to Wiseman, who is known as "GranGran" by his grandchildren, Blake said.
"He's not one for the spotlight so he told us to get it all done in one day," he added with a laugh. "But he's 90 years old and still works five days a week. And all of this is because of him."
It all started when a young Wiseman growing up in old Kuttawa, "the one that's underwater now," befriended a pharmacist and thought it was something he might like to do. He attended Murray State University for two years then headed to the University of Tennessee in Memphis and graduated in 1951. Following graduation, he served overseas in the U.S. Army for two years.
When he got home from service in late 1953/early 1954, he met a Marshall County girl and they wanted to get married so he went to the Corner Drug Store in Benton's court square where Peel & Holland is still located to this day--but back then, the front corner of the building was dedicated to the pharmacy. At the time, the pharmacy was owned by Raymond Vick.
"I wasn't interested in working for somebody but I was interested in a business proposition so we became partners, 50/50 in the corner store," he recalled.
When the Marshall County Hospital opened its initial campus in Benton in the mid 1960s, Wiseman and Vick decided to build a new pharmacy close to its campus. He said they kept both open for a little while, but in the early 1970s closed the one on the court square and doubled the size of the new location.
Wiseman recalled a representative of the Yellow Pages coming by, asking for the name of the pharmacy for the latest edition. He said he and Vick hadn't even thought about a name, but realized it wouldn't have made sense to call that location the Corner Drug Store. The representative said her deadline was the next day so they had to decide on the spot. He and Vick thought about it for a few minutes, he recalled, and then spouted out J&R (for Jim and Raymond) Pharmacy.
In 1972 Wiseman bought out Vick and the business continued to thrive, but when the hospital constructed a new facility across town in 2009, Wiseman decided to construct a new location at Main and George McClain in Benton in about 2012, where the pharmacy remains today.
During that time, Wiseman also served more than 40 years on the Benton City Council and served as Benton Mayor for two terms. He fondly recalled serving alongside Coy Creason, saying, "I feel like we did a lot of good things for Benton."
Wiseman married that Marshall County girl in Dec. 1954, who goes by Ernie, and they had three children: Debbie (Anderson), Kim (Smith) and Jeff. Their youngest, Jeff, has worked at the pharmacy since he was 10 years old, making milkshakes and floats and serving ice cream; he now manages the Benton location. He said he never considered working anywhere but the pharmacy because "it's the family business."
Jeff's son, Blake, started working at the pharmacy when he was 14 years old and graduated from Sullivan University College of Pharmacy in 2013. Now, he's also overseeing the construction of the additional location in Draffenville.
Wiseman said he feels proud to have his children and grandchildren following in his footsteps: "It makes it worthwhile. It makes you want to carry on what you're doing and leave it in better hand than it was when you got it."