Fruth Pharmacy offers more than 60 years of success and service - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Fruth Pharmacy offers more than 60 years of success and service

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Photo courtesy of Fruth Pharmacy Lynne Fruth and Pharmacist Greg Sierer present Katie Chapman with the 2013 Associate of the Year Finalist award. Katie is employed at Store 26 in Ironton, Ohio. Photo courtesy of Fruth Pharmacy Lynne Fruth and Pharmacist Greg Sierer present Katie Chapman with the 2013 Associate of the Year Finalist award. Katie is employed at Store 26 in Ironton, Ohio.
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By MARTA REE TANKERSLEY
For The State Journal

"The toughest decision I ever made was to walk away from the life I had built to save the company my father founded in 1952," said Fruth Pharmacy President and Chairman of the Board Lynne Fruth.

In 2009, Fruth Pharmacy, the business Jack E. Fruth started with its headquarters in Point Pleasant, faced the possibility of closing its 20 locations in West Virginia and Ohio. 

Lynne Fruth, the youngest of five siblings who had distinguished herself as an educator, said she came to the realization that the business was an invaluable resource for her family and the families of its 700 employees, many of whom she'd known her entire life. That became her driving force — a challenge she approached "with faith that, through sheer grit," she could save the business.

As a woman, Fruth feels her "heartfelt compassion" toward others was her ultimate motivation. 

"I kept thinking these people wouldn't have as good a job in Mason County, so at the beginning of each day, Susie Cassell, our treasurer, and I would have a little cry, then get to work," Fruth said.  "I decided I would do as much as it's physically, humanly within my ability to do to see that this business succeeds. 

"It was not going to fail because I didn't try hard enough. I'd get up every morning, work all day, and late into the night. Then I'd get up the next morning and do it again."

Her hard work and positive attitude was contagious. Employees worked at her side and joined in the fight to save the company they love.  

"Our employees have a different level of interaction with each other than what's found in larger businesses," she said. "Everyone knows each other. They love their jobs, their peers and their customers."

Five years later, Fruth Pharmacy, now with 27 locations, is expanding. 

In the past 18 months, the company has acquired two independent pharmacies that had been owned and operated by the Staley family in Ironton, Ohio, for nearly 60 years. The downtown location, on Third Street, was remodeled as part of the city's revitalization project. The other was relocated to Route 141 adjacent to the St. Mary's Medical Center Ironton Campus, which provides emergency and outpatient services.

Beyond the business, Fruth also has expanded its scholarship program which began shortly after Lynne Fruth's graduation from West Virginia University in 1980. She earned a bachelor's degree in education.

Fruth Pharmacy sponsors 28 "meaningful" scholarships, Fruth explained, typically between $500 and $1,000 per semester, with one targeted specifically for Marshall University students to benefit the children and grandchildren of their employees, she said.

Fruth said she was most touched by the story of two cancer survivors, Merryc Batt and Jeremy Huff, from Winfield High School, for whom she established college scholarships. 

"I wanted them to think beyond life with cancer," she said. "To think, ‘Maybe next year I can go to college.'"

Four years later, Batt is studying graphic design at West Virginia Wesleyan College and Huff is a nursing student at Marshall. Both students also are part-time employees of Fruth Pharmacy, and on Feb. 11, Huff celebrated being one year cancer-free with his co-workers at the Teays Valley location, where he is training to be a pharmacy technician. 

Fruth believes America's small businesses are best positioned to give back to their communities and she intends to follow in her father's footsteps to do just that.

She calls her father her mentor. He grew up poor in Buffalo and ended up studying at Duke University and Ohio State University. He built a "successful business, lived modestly and used his success and influence to make the community a better place," Fruth said. 

"I'm not as kind as my father, but I try," she said. "He taught me that money is not the measure of our quality as humans. Success should be used to change the world for others — that's the mark of true success."

Fruth said when she cleaned her father's office, she opened a drawer that was full of thank you letters.

"They served as the inspiration for a book called ‘A Journey of Giving,' that details his quiet acts of generosity," she said.