NORTH SALT LAKE — The fact that he’s been standing behind the same counter dispensing drugs for nearly 54 years may not be a record, and the fact that he knows 90 percent of his customers by their first name may be duplicated someplace somewhere by somebody.
But name another pharmacist who puts his home phone and his cellphone number on the front window of his store.
Below the sign that lists the store’s hours from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. there’s this: AFTER HOURS CALL DALE 295-0211 or 550-1683.
Meet Dale Loveridge, owner/proprietor/legend of Orchard Drug in North Salt Lake. He’s so old school he’s new school. You can get ahold of him wherever he is, even if he’s not home.
The irony of all this 24/7 accessibility, Dale will tell you, is that he gets far fewer emergency calls now than he did before cell phones were invented. Whether that’s because of the proliferation of big box stores with longer hours or because his customers go to bed earlier than they used to or just what he’s not sure, but it’s not like it was. Business is still steady, just not as frantic as 30 years ago.
If anyone’s in a position to compare then and now, it’s Dale. He doesn’t just have an institutional memory, he is an institution. He came to Orchard Drug when Eisenhower was still president and he wasn’t long removed from Pharmacy School at the University of Utah.
It was June of 1959 and he was 27 years old.
After working for druggists in Vernal, Ely, Nev., and Orem, Dale jumped at the chance to own his own store and be his own boss. He was more than satisfied with the deal he got to buy Orchard Drug. It was so good it seemed like it might be too good to be true. And then, of course, he found out it was too good to be true.
It turned out that the store hadn’t been paying its bills and was on the verge of bankruptcy — the reason for the fire sale, undisclosed to Dale — and Orchard Drug consequently enjoyed a credit rating with drug suppliers of zero tolerance. The first time Dale made an order for new inventory he was informed the terms were strictly cash.
“Everything had to be COD. Kind of a rough way to start,” he said the other day, leaning on the same counter he’s been leaning on for almost 54 years.
Then he grinned. Because he can afford to. Two score and fourteen years later, Dale owns the drugstore free and clear, including the building and the parking lot.
Along with being consistently and disarmingly friendly, his secret to business success, then and now, is his personal work ethic. When he started out he made it a habit to put in 11-hour days, and at the age of 81 he’s still putting in 11-hour days. He has never hired another full-time pharmacist other than his son, Eric, who after being trained by his dad moved on to become the pharmacist at Dick’s Market a little farther north on Orchard Drive.
Dale takes Sundays off, spends a week every summer at Lake Powell, and disappears whenever BYU is playing a home football or basketball game. Otherwise, if the store’s up and running, so is he.
“I enjoy working with people and helping them with some of their problems if I can,” he says, explaining his longevity.
He has no personal expiration date. His long-range plan is the same as his short- range plan: open the drugstore at 9 and close it at 8. “As long as the good man upstairs will give me health and strength and a good mind I’ll stay here,” he says. “I’ve never liked layin’ around.”
Not that he’s ever given it a try.
Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Mondays. EMAIL: [email protected]