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Pharmacist and businessman Lester Burris announced Thursday that Hope Wellness Pharmacy will open on the northeast side of the Hope town square by Feb. 1. The announcement was made during the first annual "State of the Town" address. Mark Webber

HOPE — Three decades after losing its last drug store, Hope soon will have a pharmacy.

Hope Wellness Pharmacy is expected to open by Feb. 1 in the Simpson building, 645 Harrison St., next to the Hope library.

That announcement during Thursday’s first “State of the Town” address was greeted with a round of enthusiastic applause from more than 50 residents in the audience — many who agreed there has been a need for a drug store.

That need was specifically mentioned in the comprehensive plan developed for the town of Hope in 2006.

That same year, when the Community Center of Hope’s founding director spoke during the opening of the Hope Family Health Clinic, Julie Glick Begin said the town needed to make acquiring a pharmacy a top priority.

About 10 percent of the Hope’s population is age 65 or older, and some are homebound due to disability. Since the median per capita income in Hope is $19,357, compared with $28,765 in Columbus, even some healthy and younger residents have trouble finding transportation to larger communities with pharmacies, town officials said.

For most of the 20th century, there was at least one, if not two, drug stores operating in the Hope area.

The last one was Mills Pharmacy, which was next to the former Clouse’s Supermarket on the north side of the square until at least 1987.

However, the drug store and the supermarket were two of several “mom and pop” operations that closed during the economic downturn in the late ’80s.

Hope Wellness Pharmacy will become the third drug store operated by Panacea Pharmacy, Inc. The company is owned by three pharmacists and business partners Lester Burris, Josh Anderson and Steven Anderson.

Other Panacea pharmacies are in Bloomington and New Castle, Burris said during Thursday’s announcement.

The Hope pharmacy will provide customers with an automatic refill program, as well as convenience packaging that already has medication separated for proper dosage, Burris said.

In addition, the pharmacy is exploring possible partnerships with the Windrose Network Health Centers, which operates the Hope Family Health Center, “to help improve the community from a health standpoint,” Burris said.

Hope town manager J.T. Doane said he learned about the decision by the Panacea partners to open a Hope pharmacy in late September.

“But until we worked out all the details, we decided to keep it quiet,” Doane said.

Besides residents of Flatrock and Hawcreek townships, Doane anticipates the Hope Wellness Pharmacy will be patronized by those residing in nearby communities such as Hartsville and Rugby.

The town manager also expressed optimism that pharmacy customers also will patronize other Hope-area businesses when they come to town.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.