After Nearly 60 Years, Treworgy Pharmacy Closes

By Lura Jackson

Bob Treworgy (standing on the left side of the door frame) watches a parade in 1976 from in front of the building that he purchased in 1955. Initially he renamed it Treworgy Rexall.

For the past six decades, Treworgy Pharmacy in downtown Calais has provided its customers with constant, reliable service, neighborly support, and sound advice on medications. As of September 4th, however, the community drug store that began its operations in 1955 has closed its doors to the public, leaving many customers wondering why. Owner Prabhakar Samala sat down with the Calais Advertiser to respond to that question and share a message with the community.

“I want to really express my appreciation and gratitude to my customers who have been with me since I bought it,” Samala began. “Thank you for all of your support.  I want to give my sincere apologies for selling the business.  It was a very difficult decision for me to make.” Samala purchased Treworgy three years ago and invested a significant amount of funds into the expansion and renovation of the interior. He originally came to Calais because he had a desire to serve a rural area with an elderly population, and purchasing Treworgy had presented the ideal opportunity. As a long-standing pharmacy in the area, Treworgy offered the only delivery of pharmaceuticals in the region, a convenience that many elderly customers came to rely on.

Unfortunately, the pharmacy’s significant customer base of more than 2,000 regulars was not enough to cushion it from the loss of profits incurred as a result of the practices of insurance companies. “Insurance companies are forcing my customers to go to Wal-Mart and mandatory mail-order companies because of preferred pharmacy networks.” Samala explained that insurance companies broker deals with select retail chains, creating a preferred pharmacy network enabling those businesses to offer the same prescriptions for a $0 co-pay while independent pharmacies like Treworgy have to continue to charge as much as $29 for co-pays. “Insurance companies were also reimbursing me at less than cost at times.” The losses continued to compile, and after a negative first half of 2014, Samala made the difficult decision to close the store. “I never expected this.”

“This was the only full-service community pharmacy in Washington County,” Samala said. “Now some customers will have to go as far as Bangor to get their supplies.” Well aware of the importance of the pharmacy in the region, Samala worked diligently to find an alternative for his customers. He found his answer with Rite-Aid, which agreed to take on the delivery service, mailing the prescriptions, as well as some of his ten full-time employees (three will remain with Samala to assist with long-term care and boarding home contracts). All of Treworgy prescriptions have been transferred into the Rite-Aid system, and the employees are already beginning work at their new location. The delivery driver will remain the same, minimizing disruption for housebound patients. “I am very thankful to Rite-Aid.”

While Samala is relieved to have found a solution for most of his customers, he realizes that downtown Calais won’t be the same without the massive 60-foot sign inviting visitors into the store. “Some of our customers were third and fourth generation.  I have sincerely enjoyed getting to know the people of Washington County.  What I will miss most of all is the daily interaction with my customers and my staff - they have become my friends.” 

Many independent pharmacies in Maine are struggling because of these business practices, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. “In New York, they have laws against mandatory mail order and copay discrepancies,” Samala explained, referencing a law that went into effect in 2011. Samala urges his customers to contact their legislators in support of bills that would have a similar effect, some of which have been debated by the State Congress in recent years. “If those changes could happen here, then some independent pharmacies might survive. It’s too late for Treworgy, but maybe not for others.”