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Neighborhood businesses are the heart and soul of livable communities.
Larry Thomas, a second-generation independent pharmacist in Laurel, Mississippi, epitomizes the ethic that fosters cultural enrichment.
Although big box corporate pharmacies have muscled themselves into the mainstream lately with shelves stocked supermarket-style full of merchandise, owner-operated shops like Thomas Pharmacy offer to their community something that the Walgreens of the world cannot - the owner. Walk in the store and you'll more often than not find Larry Thomas himself behind the pharmacy counter dispensing prescriptions (and community wisdom) to some of the same people and their descendants that his father first served over a half century ago.
The Thomas Pharmacies of the world have an investment in their respective communities that goes far beyond economics. There is a recognizable face associated with transactions - on both sides of the pharmacy counter.
With a neighborhood business, a trip to the pharmacy is not just about getting a prescription filled. Locally owned businesses serve as community meeting places where you can actually have a real, nuanced conversation with your neighbors. It's a place where information critical to the enrichment of "community" is passed directly from people to people with a patina of humanity that cannot be found in a strip-mall world.
The new Thomas Pharmacy, scheduled open in early 2010, will offer a children's play area for waiting families and a pizza/sandwich restaurant in addition to Larry's own personally compounded hair and beauty care products.
Local owner-operators like Larry Thomas, with the mindset of "social entrepreneur," contribute far more to the community than tax dollars.