RENO, NV - A longtime customer stepped behind the counter at Hales Pharmacy on East Second Street Friday to give a big hug to pharmacist Bill Locke.
"I'm going to miss you," she says. "And if I don't watch it I'm going to cry."
It's been like this all day for Bill Locke and farewells like this say something about the man and the pharmacist.
In an age dominated by big corporate stores, his personal approach has long since been outdated. Bill and his customers have liked it that way.
My personal philosophy has been to get to know by first name everyone who comes in," he says. "I talk with them and I answer every question from 'what is this rash' to 'should I see a doctor?"
He says that's something drilled into him by his father and uncle. It's an approach has served this community well for 83 years.
Hales Drug Stores was founded by Bill's great uncle. There were once 14 of them and they were a very visible part of the community. If you grew up here it's likely you frequented one for medicine, sundries or a soda at one of their fountains.
There's a scrap book back in the office recording some of that history. Among the pictures a 16 year old Dick Stoddard with his dad, Bob, doing a Hales sponsored broadcast of a high school basketball game. Another shows Dick's mom, Betty, doing a Hales commercial on KOLO 8 many years ago.
Today this store on East 2nd street near Renown is the last. remaining store.
The business has changed, Bill says, now run by insurance companies. His kind of customer oriented approach is getting more difficult. They don't even teach it, he says, in pharmacy school.
"it's all very pressured. They aren't paid to talk with people. They're paid to get back there and punch out as many prescriptions as they can."
So, he says, it's time to get out, go fishing, play more golf, spend time with the grand kids.
Still, saying goodbye is tough.
"I want thank all of the people who dealt with Hales," he says, choking up a bit himself,. "There's a lot of them and I really appreciate that a lot."
Will he miss it?
The new owners, Sierra Health Mart, are keeping the Hales name for the time being and say if Bill wants to come back and work a day or two every now and them he's welcome.
He says he just might take them up on that offer.