November 28, 2012

Larsen’s Service Drug celebrates 60 years of business

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

On Nov. 20, 1952, John O. Larsen opened the doors of Larsen Service Drug, and now 60 years later, the business is still serving the people of Watford City and McKenzie County.
“The ’50s, ’60s and ’70s were the heyday of Main Streets in small towns all across America, and Watford City was no exception,” states Debbie Larsen of Larsen Service Drug. “When John opened his doors, he said, ‘It will be our aim to give the public the best possible service at all times and endeavor to carry a complete line of merchandise to be found in a modern drug store.’”
And that is exactly what he did.
“In addition to stocking the newest and best items for their customers, the soda fountain was a big hit,” states Debbie. “John’s wife, Kay, recalls many Friday evenings making malts and other treats as county residents flocked to town for shopping, dances, movies and a stop at the local soda fountain.”
In 1983, John’s son, Larry, returned home to go into business with his dad. In 1988, Larry expanded the store into what residents know today.
Once the size of the store doubled, Debbie states that though she started as a bookkeeper, her job became to see that John’s vision of a thoroughly modern drug store remained true.
“Candy and perfume have always been stocked items and are strong sellers at Larsen’s,” states Debbie. “But I made frequent trips to buying markets so that we could offer our residents the same products that were found in all the big cities. Boyd’s Bears, Cherished Teddies and Beanie Babies were all available right here in Watford City, thanks to Larsen’s.”
As collectibles died off, Debbie stayed on the cutting edge, replacing them with purses, accessories and home decor.
“We are always trying to ensure an ever-changing selection of the newest items in today’s market,” states Debbie.
However, Larsen Service Drug hasn’t only been about cutting edge merchandise.
“Larry works long hours filling prescriptions for our customers during the day and late into the evening, attending to the details that require an independent business owner’s attention,” states Debbie.
In 2003, Larsen Service Drug opened a second location in New Town, and according to Debbie, it was a welcome addition to that community’s Main Street.
Watford City has changed a lot in 60 years, and with the population predicted to reach 7,500, Debbie states that Larsen’s is committed to being there for the long haul.
“Larry recently purchased a pharmacy robot which will help with the increased patient load,” states Debbie. “Online and smartphone refill requests are another service helping to automate the prescription filling process, giving Larry more time to consult with patients.”
North Dakota is the only state that requires pharmacists to own drug stores making it the home of independent pharmacies.
“After the initial shock at not finding a pharmacy at Walmart, most new patients seem pleased to be doing business with an independent, community pharmacy and staff that knows their name and cares about their needs,” states Debbie.
Larry and his brother, Lyle, went into pharmacy after their father, and Larry and Debbie have two daughters following in their father’s footsteps.
“Michelle is a hospital pharmacist at Sanford Health in Bismarck and Jenna will graduate in May and return to Watford City to become a third generation pharmacist for Larsen Service Drug,” Debbie states.
Larry and Debbie’s two other children are still in school. Chris is a pre-law student at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks and Sean is an eighth grader at Watford City High School.
The Larsen family is truly thankful to their loyal customers for all their support through the years.
To say, ‘Thank You,’ Larsen Service Drug is inviting everyone to their 60th Anniversary Celebration to be held at the store on Thursday, Nov. 29 from 2 to 6 p.m. There will be gifts, goodies and drawings for 60 door prizes and a special soda fountain treat for everyone.