By John Robert
For Rich Grossman, owner of West Grange Pharmacy, winning the Trenton Business Association’s Business of the Year award was a real surprise, though a very pleasant one.
But, more important to him was the validation it gave his staff, whether in the pharmacy or the retail side of the business.
“We’re very appreciative, and for the staff it’s really important because it validates what they do every day,” said Grossman, though noting that the employees of West Grange know how much what they do every day means to the customers who make visits to the store — whether regularly or not.
When people think of West Grange Pharmacy, a couple of things typically stand out: The store’s expansive gift section, which is still growing, and the classic feel of a local store not tied to a faceless corporate chain.
That feeling dates back to its longtime owner, Hadar Granader, who sold the store in 1996 to his friend, Grossman, so he could avoid selling to what was at the time Arbor Drugs, now CVS.
Grossman was motivated by his friend, but also by the customers he interacted with daily.
“When I first came in, I worked for a month prior to the sale, and customers came in daily to remind me to keep the bulletin board in the vestibule,” where it remains to this day, he said. “and saying, ‘Please don’t change.’ ”
If it has changed, most would agree it has been for the better, especially through its involvement in the community — one of the reasons it was nominated for the TBA’s award.
While West Grange does hold special events such as the book signings featuring Justin Verlander’s parents, more important to Grossman are the local Trenton groups and foundations they help support.
“We support a lot of things, like the Parks and Recreation Department, and we do a lot with the Trenton Educational (Foundation); we support that quite heavily.
“It really doesn’t matter who or what, there really isn’t much that we aren’t involved with in some way.”
The employees are what make it all work, Grossman said.
“The staff is the store,” he said, noting that many of them have been there since he became owner — such as pharmacist Jim Giordano — or even prior.
As for its gift section, one only needs to visit it to see why it has a reputation. In an age where brick-and-mortar bookstores are disappearing, West Grange Pharmacy has half an aisle dedicated to kids’ books, as well as a toy section in which they showcase the educational variety of toys and games.
The store is still developing this section, as part of its commitment to keeping its product updated. In the last half year a clothing and jewelry corner was added — an idea that was suggested to Grossman by one of his managers. They try and focus on unique styles that aren’t found at major chains such as Target.
“We’re not just a drugstore,” Grossman said. “It’s not just shampoo and toothpaste and prescriptions. We have a lot of other things to buy. We want it to be a fun shopping experience.”
The TBA Business of the Year award is selected by popular vote, which is what makes businesses such as West Grange Pharmacy so glad to receive it.
Any business in Trenton can be nominated by anyone, regardless of its membership in the TBA. Once the nomination process ends, the businesses are placed on the TBA’s Facebook page where anyone can choose their favorite. The business receiving the most “Likes” during a specific time period in December becomes the winner. The award was presented in February at the State of the City program, an event sponsored jointly by the TBA and Trenton Rotary Club.
Krishelle Kohler, president of the TBA, described the dual purpose of the award: First, is to recognize hometown organizations that excel — whether it be in the number of employees or customer satisfaction — and, second, encourage Trenton residents to show support for their favorite businesses.
“I hope it gets people to think, ‘Well, what businesses do I like?’ ” Kohler said. In the case of West Grange Pharmacy, the vote was clearly one for independently-owned businesses that became a hub for the community.
The TBA can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TrentonBusiness.