Provider propels pharmacy/HME mix with new showroom

Thursday, January 31, 2002

Provider propels pharmacy/HME mix with new showroom

NIAGRA FALLS, N.Y. - While few drug stores dare handle the meat of the homecare industry, a pharmacy here recently moved into a larger facility - complete with a showroom - so it could increase its HME offerings.

"I've always looked for niches along the way, things the big chains aren't doing," said Owner Al Mutto, whose Pine Pharmacy and Home Care Center had its beginnings 17 years ago in an 800-square-foot facility. "Home medical equipment's it."

Mutto recently moved into an 8,000-square-foot-facility in December and began stocking hard-core HME like stairway elevators and electric wheelchairs. In his previous 3,000 square-foot-facility, HME like canes and walkers were stacked in a small, storefront window.

"Maybe we squeezed in one lift chair," Mutto said, "but things got real cluttered."

No longer, Mutto said, thanks to the Lisle, Ill.-based consulting firm Gladson & Associates, which designed the new facility. Now, there's a showroom with a bedroom and bathroom display, as well as a mobility section, and a pharmacy with consultation areas and a compounding lab.

Mutto said with the layout of the new facility - the showroom in front and the pharmacy out back - long-time customers of his pharmacy, which represent 75% of his business, will now be forced to notice his HME.

"What I'm doing is planting the seed for future sales," he said. "Maybe they don't need a lift chair today, but when they do, or someone they know does, they're going to think of our store."

But Mutto said he's no fool, and he knows "HME can get away from you real quick," so among his 21 employees are "some proficient billing people." He also said he knows "there's good and bad in HME," and he's sliced out the good things.

"Dollar-wise, oxygen's our big seller," Mutto said. "But we're trying to push cash sales on other equipment like scooters, which we've never had the room to do before."

Mutto said about one-quarter of the new facility is dedicated to HME. HME