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Contributed photo by Julie Bohannon / The interior of Thrifty MedPlus Pharmacy is shown in Ooltewah. The pharmacy, which is celebrating its 15th year of business in 2020, added directional arrows to its aisles to encourage customers to social distance during the coronavirus pandemic.

As independent Ooltewah pharmacy ThriftyMedPlus marks its 15th anniversary this year, owner Julie Bohannon answered questions about the business and her new initiative, the L3 movement

Q. Why did you want to get into this business and open your own pharmacy?

A. I personally have always had a little entrepreneurial spirit, even at a young age. In regards to pharmacy, I began working the summer after graduating high school for a family friend, Nick Akins, who was an independent community pharmacist. At that particular time, the stereotypic pharmacist role had begun to shift with more women entering the profession, and I was encouraged by him and his success as an owner. I became even more fascinated with the idea of becoming an independent-pharmacy owner after taking a pharmacy management class at Samford University School of Pharmacy under Dr. Edwin Hall. This professor was not only an educator, but also a small, independent owner who was a part-time faculty member. Dr Hall was a true gem and inspiration.

Q. Why did you choose Ooltewah as your location? Has it always been in the same location?

A. After working nine years for Kroger Corporation in Peachtree City, Georgia, a wonderful business opportunity was afforded me and my husband, Greg, and a strategy for moving back to our hometown of Chattanooga. Mr. Akins had made the decision to semi-retire and sell off one of his stores, that being Thrifty MedPlus. With my years of experience in community pharmacy practice, Greg's experience as an industrial engineer/operations manager, and both of our willingness to take a leap of faith, we landed in Ooltewah. The pharmacy had been in existence for two years prior to us purchasing it in August of 2005. We built a home closeby in 2006 and resided there for over 10 years while raising two daughters.

More information:

Thrifty MedPlus is at 5032 Ooltewah-Ringgold Road and can be reached at 423-396-6963, or visit thrifymedplus.com.

Q. What sets yours apart from other pharmacies?

A. One mantra we have always practiced and have tried to cultivate among our staff is to treat each guest as a name, not a number. No matter who you are or where you came from, you have a place in our home of business. We want people to feel comfortable, loved and cared for. I will always remember the phrase printed at the bottom of each of my Kroger pay stubs: "A happy customer made this paycheck possible." We are not perfect, but we try to be each and every day. The customer may not always be right, but they are always the customer.

Q. What has helped the business to survive all these years, and what are your plans for the future?

A. The survival of Thrifty MedPlus has been based on several things, one being good help. You cannot do it all yourself as you continue to grow, and you cannot lead those who do not care to be led. Great employees are the backbone of every successful business.

Over the past 15 years, we have been blessed with an abundance of amazing individuals who come to work each day with a servant's heart. Surrounding yourself with team players who each bring their own special gift and play their own special role within the operation makes for a great establishment. Although we have seen a few come and go after so many years in business, we appreciate each member of our team, both past and present, who have contributed to the success of Thrifty MedPlus.

Secondly, never dismiss the value of the customer, and a loyal one at that. Otherwise, why are we even there? We wouldn't be. We are in awe at times how far some customers and patients drive just to support us and who truly value the care we give. Trust, loyalty and positive 'word of mouth' endorsements are true treasure traits of the consumer in any business, especially ours.

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Contributed photo by Julie Bohannon / The exterior of Thrifty MedPlus Pharmacy is shown in Ooltewah. The pharmacy is celebrating its 15th year in business.

Q. What is the L3 movement and why did you decide to start it?

A. My true passion for trading local inspired me to spearhead the L3 (launching local love) movement. Being a small, local business owner and understanding many of the constant challenges we each face in our own given industry, I felt a true coalition among small-business owners in our community was in order. Whether it be COVID-19, big-box competition, internet trade or large corporations eager to overshadow and dismiss the value of the little guy (or girl), helping and wanting to see one another succeed is important.

Q. What do you hope the movement will accomplish?

A. L3 is aimed at fostering ongoing support of one another through community networking, social media tags and exposure, area business event coordination, and continual advocacy of area products and services with the goal of bringing greater awareness to all. We are in a rapidly growing community and need to be a unified force as small-business owners operating, at times, in a tough climate.

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