When the COVID 19 pandemic began making it’s way into East Texas, Longview’s Louis Morgan Drugs #4 sprang into action. Owners Mike Holbert and Shawn Sams are working around the clock making sure all of their patients are being taken care of, and making sure their shelves stay stocked with the necessities.
We virtually sat down with co-owner Shawn Sams to learn more about what’s going on behind the scenes. Here’s some of our conversation:
What changes are y’all making in order to adapt to this pandemic?
“The biggest thing is we’re trying to stop the exposure of our employees to the virus because if we have to shut down, then that makes it impossible for all of our customers and patients to obtain the medicine they need. So the two biggest things that we have done, and really I guess there’s three,
- We’re offering free delivery. We’ve expanded our delivery zone a little bit and we’re trying to work with individuals, who may live outside our normal delivery area, to make sure that we can get their medicine to them and we’re doing it absolutely free. I’ve actually brought in a couple extra drivers to make sure that we’re able to get patients their medicine.
- We’ve actually started a new curbside service here. You can pull up to the front door. We’ve got a special phone number that’s listed on the wall, you call that number and never have to get out of the car. Our employees are taking out whatever it is they need, whether it’s gift items, pharmacy items over the counter items, it doesn’t matter.
- And then thirdly, if a patient feels like they absolutely have to come inside the store for whatever reason, we have a nurse and a nurse practitioner that are working to screen patients as they’re arriving inside the store, checking for fever, asking all the questions that are related to the COVID epidemic.
And then also within the store we have different areas marked off so that patients can understand that they need to social distance. And we’re trying to spread everything out as much as we can inside the store. So if a patient does need to come in, for whatever reason, we’re able to take care of them.”
How are y’all unique as a small-town, family-owned pharmacy?
“You know, we’re not responsible to a large organization as far as stockholders, or confined by a corporate structure. Our job and our passion is taking care of our patients. If we need some kind of item we have multiple manufacturers and wholesalers that we can reach out to and I really feel like it provides us a better opportunity to take care of our patients. There’s anywhere between 25 and 50 different manufacturers and wholesalers that I can reach out to during times like this when we’re having difficulty obtaining certain products or ingredients. Typically we’re able to get the hard-to-find items, let me give you an example..nobody has hand sanitizer right now, or if you can find it somewhere it’s in very small amounts. We’ve actually worked with a company that is shipping us 5,000 units of 8-ounce hand sanitizer that we’ll hopefully have over the next few days. So again, we’re able to get these different products that people are looking for and get them relatively quickly.”
Why are some of those hard-to-find items a little more expensive right now?
“There’s a lot of dynamics on pricing right now. In particular with the things that are needed, the face masks, the hand sanitizers, those different items that are in high demand right now. You know, even toilet paper. So what we’re doing is we are reaching out to all these channels and distributors that we have, but because of the large demand, they’re actually increasing the price on their products. And because of that, we’re having to spend more money to purchase the things that used to cost less money. So I think it’s important for people to remember that those issues are kind of going on behind the scenes. We would never try to price gouge anyone here, that’s just not the type of people we are. We’re a family-owned small company and we believe in being fair and honest with people. But because of these demands, as far as price increases, we are having to charge customers more than what we normally would if all these other external events were not going on right now. We’re trying to be as upfront on this as we can with the pricing, and anytime that we start buying items at a less expensive price we will always pass that along to the customers. We don’t want them to have to pay anything more than what they need to, to obtain whatever item it is that we’re looking to get them.”
What do you think are supplies that people truly need right now? And any tips for staying as safe as possible?
“As far as a couple items that I would say that everybody needs to make sure they have is antimicrobial soap and some kind of hand sanitizer that they can carry with them everywhere they go. The biggest thing that people can do is wash their hands. So antibacterial, antimicrobial soaps are vital. We have actually obtained a large shipment of a hand sanitizer, so I think that’s also something that’s essential for you to carry everywhere you go. Carry it in your pocket, carry it in your purse, or whatever it is you have that you carry with you. Make sure that you have that hand sanitizer with you and that you’re using it frequently. And then, you know, the mask’s important as well. The CDC and President Trump and other people have said that it’s important now that people out in the public wear some type of mask, even if it’s just a cloth mask. And hopefully as production increases we’ll be able to get some of the better/stronger masks that filter out even smaller particles to the hospitals that really need them. Those are important for those people that are being exposed to patients that potentially have COVID 19. So we need to make sure that those people are able to get those specific masks before the public gets them.”
“I think it’s really vital that we follow those guidelines and that we practice good social distancing and make sure that when you’re in public you’re stepping away from the counter and you’re not standing right next to somebody but trying to keep your space between those people.”
What else are y’all doing for the community at this time?
“I can tell you that that Mike and I, and really everybody at the store, is working around the clock to make sure that we’re obtaining whatever it is our patients need. Whether it’s thermometers, face masks, or hand sanitizer, we’re doing everything we can to make sure that we can get those brought into the store as quickly as possible. I would ask that our customers and the public understand that we’re doing our best. We’re fighting this every day trying to make sure that we can get these things in. And it’s just kind of a trickle effect right now where we just get a few items in a day and we’re trying to get those to the people that need them. I think over the next few weeks and months, things will tend to get better and I think the supplies will increase. This is not a time to panic or try to hoard a huge amount of different items because there’s other people in the public and in healthcare organizations that need those items. So we just want to make sure that we’re getting the people that need things, whatever it is they need, in a timely fashion.”
Any tips or advice on helping people pass the time while they’re staying at home?
“I will say that as a family unit, we’ve spent more time together, so use this time as a blessing to be with your family. Spend more time at the dinner table, or cooking things at home. My kids and I have been playing catch out in the yard because we’ve had a little bit more time to do that. So just spend time with your loved ones and just try to relax and get through all of this.”
“I do encourage everybody to try to shop local and do as many things local as they possibly can. I know personally as a family, we’ve tried to support all the locally-owned restaurants and make sure that we’re keeping our money here in town. The effect of this will be felt on a lot of small businesses so we want to make sure that we stay local and we try to support each other.”
Louis Morgan #4 opened their doors in Longview in 1969, and for over 50 years they’ve been providing the community with a variety of services including a full-service pharmacy and a gift shop.
Louis Morgan Drugs #4 is located at 110 Johnston Street in Longview.
Here are their hours of operation:
Monday – Friday: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
with The East Texas Weekend