Brian Walker marks 25 years at Southold Pharmacy

While a great deal of change has occurred on the North Fork in recent years, in many ways, at many businesses, small-town Southold is still on display.

Which brings us to Brian Walker, who last month celebrated 25 years as store manager at Southold Pharmacy. The store, on Main Road in the hamlet’s downtown, has been owned by the Scott family for 60 years. 

“We are the same business we were when it started,” Mr. Walker said. He was seated in a storage area at the back of the store. Out front, customers waited at the pharmacy counter for their prescriptions. Others browsed the greeting card aisle.

An Amazon delivery driver came in to drop off a package. Mr. Walker offered him a bottled water for the road, then resumed talking about his quarter-century at the pharmacy.

“We know everyone who comes in, many of them on a first-name basis, and people always know we are here to help them,” he said. “People come in for graduation cards, birthday cards, cards for first communions and bar mitzvahs and get-well cards.”

Mr. Walker compares the atmosphere in the store — and the way he and his staff interact with long-standing customers — as something like the bar in “Cheers,” where the regulars know everyone’s name.

Mr. Walker’s wife, Deanna Witte-Walker, executive director of the Southold Historical Museum, said there are countless stories of people and families with health issues, some minor and some grave, who have come in for help or to pick up critical prescriptions.

“Often it’s when people are at their most vulnerable that Brian is able to offer support,” she said. “For example, when a local family was faced with the death of their young son, who was home on hospice after a long battle with cancer, they called my husband’s cellphone for help. 

“He can be a lifeline at times,” she added. “On a lighter note, Brian is the unofficial watch battery person at the pharmacy. People come in for new batteries, and he pulls out his handy tool.”

Larry Behr of Cutchogue, a longtime member and former chief of the Cutchogue Fire Department, helps Mr. Walker deliver prescriptions to the homebound who are unable to find someone to come to the store.

“It’s important that we get people the help they need, even if they are at home,” Mr. Walker said. “Just this week Larry and I went to a house on Nassau Point to repair a hospital bed. For some people, Larry is the person who comes to the door and they have a chance to chat and catch up. Sometimes the best medicine is to talk to people.”

Twenty-five years ago, the Walkers were living in Jamesport and Mr. Walker was working for a CVS branch in Bohemia. At the time, they were raising their two boys, a 2-year-old and an infant. 

At some point, Mr. Walker heard Southold Pharmacy was looking for a new store manager. He met the owner, Don Scott, and was hired. He has been on duty there ever since. 

Continuity in any business is rare, but this one, like a few others in Southold, is an example of a business staying in the same family over the generations. Today, the pharmacy is owned by Mr. Scott’s daughter, Paulette Ofrias.

So many aspects of the pharmacy business still hold Mr. Walker’s interest, from the “thousand or so” people he knows on a first-name business, to how the pharmacy helped get prescriptions to people during the pandemic when pharmacies up west were having difficulties with staffing. Southold Pharmacy is also involved in aspects of hospice care and rents out various care-related equipment such as hospital beds. 

“The biggest thing for me is we are involved with families in the major events in their lives, because they are coming in here,” he said. “That includes hospice care. We are able to help others get what they need.

“During Superstorm Sandy many people lost their power and people needed help,” he said. “We had people calling saying they needed oxygen refilled. They were worried. Paulette said, ‘Bring them what they need.’

“These are our neighbors. When I go to bed at night, I feel very good about what we are doing.”