By Mike Kinney
Richie Duenas, a Richmond resident and owner of the Central Pharmacy, with locations at 23rd Street and Macdonald Avenue in Richmond and also at the Redwood Square Shopping Center in Vallejo, insists that this story isn’t about him, or even his long-running business.
The story, he says, is about his staff and his customers, some who have been coming to Central Pharmacy for over four decades.
“We have an amazing group of people there,” Duenas said, adding that his staff “truly takes care of our beloved community of Richmond and the surrounding communities.”
Duenas grew up in Oakland and attended Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo.
Duenas now operates one of the last local, family-owned neighborhood pharmacies in Richmond, which he says is a sad thing.
Central Pharmacy is considered a “full-line” pharmacy offering a wide array of products and services, from same-day prescriptions to over-the-counter medicines, immunizations and bubble-packages of medications.
“We always say, ‘If I don’t have it today, I will get it by tomorrow!,'” Duenas said.
“We offer a medication review, which our customers appreciate especially if you are taking over six medications,” he said. “Sometimes if we have more than a few health providers, different medications can be over-prescribed or they may have the same purpose. We make those calls to providers and it may lead to a positive change in therapy. Our staff are experienced and clinical recommendations are treated with the urgency they deserve.”
Central Pharmacy doesn’t have a phone-tree.
“If you call us, we pick up the phone,” Duenas said. “You can speak to someone immediately and in today’s world that is hard to come by. We wanted everyone to know that it is a conscious part of what we do, and we want to make it easy to have access to good help quickly.”
Perhaps Central Pharmacy’s most important service is the expertise it offers.
“At other pharmacies if a medication is not covered or not in stock you may have to wait until you get into the pharmacy and wait in line to find out that you cannot have the prescription that the provider wrote for, and that the pharmacy did nothing to help you get alternative therapy,” Duenas said. “Not here. We are way ahead of the curve and will call you when things are not working out as planned.”
Central Pharmacy has a medication sync program that allows it to efficiently fill prescriptions on-time, and to order them ahead of time, said Duenas.
“There are a lot of drug shortages going on in the market, many people are having to wait for their medications,” he said. “Our sync program puts the power of technology to order and process prescriptions to save you time and money. Our sync program and our delivery program work hand-in-hand with each other. We ask folks to give us a call for details.”
Central Pharmacy’s on-site staff can speak Spanish and Tagalog, and it has a translation service that is special for the medical field for unfamiliar languages.
“Central Pharmacy has dedicated relationships with medical providers that have specialties in mental health, in oncology (cancer doctors), HIV, and folks that are in recovery (addition medicine),” Duenas said. “These prescriptions need extra care, and need pharmacists that understand specific needs that go along with taking these meds.”
And while extra care is taken by the pharmacists, that doesn’t mean extra wait times for customers. Those coming in for a regular refill of a few medications can expect no more than a handful of minutes to receive them, Duenas said.
“If you are a new customer, we ask folks to give a call on the phone and let us work in the background before you come so that when you arrive, we got things all taken care of,” he said.
Central Pharmacy also offers free delivery.
“We owe everything to our clients and our clients know that we prioritize their needs,” Duenas said. “We will keep doing what we are doing as the pharmacy is one of the few places you can walk in and get great healthcare advice from a pharmacist without an appointment. For some people, the pharmacist is the only access to healthcare they have.”
When Duenas isn’t connecting customers to their critical medicines, he’s supporting other local small businesses in the communities.
“Special shout-out to all our local super-mercados, notaries, the Mechanics bank, the repair shops on MacDonald that care for our delivery cars, the Taquerias and Soul Food spots that are authentic and delicious for our lunch cravings, and let’s not forget all the church groups that do fund-raising to keep our community going,” Duenas said. “If we need something, we are looking around our area first!”
Central Pharmacy is located at 2300 Macdonald Ave. and its hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. You can contact them at (510) 234-4381.