Growing up in Pacific County, Jeff Harrell was more interested in basketball than becoming a pharmacist. Let alone a business owner. But he wound up at WSU, where he studied pharmacy and met his wife, Casey. They settled in Seattle–until they heard of an opportunity back home they couldn’t pass up.
In 2006, the Harrells returned to Pacific County to take ownership of Peninsula Pharmacies, which can be found in four locations locally–with partner locations in three states. Jeff and Casey attended business classes to better understand the economics behind their trade. Which came in handy as they acquired a diverse collection of businesses, including Dylan’s Cottage Bakery (renamed to honor their late daughter) and Funland, a local arcade. As well as the Depot, a fine dining restaurant.
So how did Jeff pull it off? He gave us some pointers:
Why did you choose to start a business in Pacific County?
I was born and raised here in Pacific County, so most of my time’s been spent here. We were up in Seattle for a couple of years; I moved there for a job opportunity. I came back for an ownership opportunity. The pharmacies here on the peninsula are a package deal: Peninsula Pharmacies. And in 2006, my wife and I bought into those. Those are the first pharmacies that we came to own.
How did you choose your industry?
My mother steered me towards it. She thought it was a good profession with a lot of opportunities. And all I wanted to do was play basketball and have fun. But I went to WSU, got into pharmacy school, got my degree, and the rest is history.
If you had a piece of advice to offer someone starting a business in Pacific County, what would it be?
Have a good knowledge of the numbers. Many folks are great at their trades but don’t run their businesses very well. They don’t send their bills out on time. And you have to have cash flow. So even though you’re good at your trade, you need to be good at business to succeed. And that’s why you see companies pop up, go for 18 months, and then shut down. You have the high season, where people make money by accident, so to speak–specifically in the food, entertainment, and hospitality industry. But in the low months, you have to work at it a little bit.
You should also surround yourself with good people. I always said that you’re only as good as those surrounding you. In our case, we have a good group of people: My brother, sister-in-law, and brother-in-law. We have a lot of family in the businesses now. And it’s an excellent formula. But you have to have reputation. And you’ve got to have money and the ability to borrow money.
What was your mission when you started your business?
High-level customer service. To deliver the prescription accurately, efficiently, and quickly. The patient is in your pharmacy, and they don’t feel well. They don’t want to spend a lot of time there. And we want to treat them with respect and kindness. Our goal has always been to deliver that prescription with consistency and quality customer service.
How did you come up with the name for your business?
I inherited it. Peninsula Pharmacies Inc. was founded in 1960, and we just bought it that way.
How do you define success?
Delivering a product that we’re proud of while sustaining the business financially. Because you need both or you don’t survive.
How do you view your role in the community?
We want to give back to this community–like with the sports programs. We’re building the Dylan Jude Community Center in Ilwaco to serve the after-school programs and the youth. We donate to all the events that we can. And we try to provide quality paying jobs to hundreds of people here in the community–which trickles back down to other businesses. We want to keep the town rolling. There are already a lot of business owners at the age where they’re looking to transition, and we want to keep those businesses going. Business drives business, and we’re all in this together.
Final Thoughts For any aspiring business owner in Pacific County, here are a few key takeaways from Jeff’s experience:
● Understand the economics of your business
● Surround yourself with quality people
● Cultivate a good reputation
● Don’t depend solely on the high season for success; account for the off-season
● Deliver a product you’re proud of