SOLDIERS GROVE - Talk to most people about their jobs and it won’t take long to hear about some of the downsides of the employment—long hours, low wages, bad working conditions, dysfunctional fellow employees, incompetent management, abusive customers and the list goes on. However, that’s not what you’re going to hear from Andy Nelson, the 44-year-old pharmacist at the Solar Town Pharmacy in Soldiers Grove.
The more Andy learns about the job he took 15 months ago the more he likes it. In fact, he often finds he’s asking himself, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?”
Nelson has plenty of experience working at other pharmacies, back in his hometown of Janesville, as well as in Viroqua.
In fact, he was working at Walgreen’s in Viroqua, when he decided to take the job at the Solar Town Pharmacy. He didn’t quite understand everything about the small rural pharmacy, but thought it would be a good move. It turned out it really was.
Andy started at the Solar Town Pharmacy on May 9, 2016 after 10 years of working at the Walgreen’s in Viroqua. He was pleased to find out the job came with an experienced and highly competent staff. Rosie McCullick, a pharmacy tech, has worked at the store for 32 years. Paula Owen, the bookkeeper, has worked at the local pharmacy for the past 20 years. Both women worked at the pharmacy when Don Stoebner owned it.
Rachel Cramsey, another pharmacy tech, has worked at the store for nine years. Paula’s husband Larry Owen works as a clerk at the store.
What does working with the experienced staff mean for the pharmacist?
“It’s huge that’s the only way I can describe it,” Andy said. “It’s a huge advantage to arrive in a new environment and have this kind of staff.”
And the staff seems to share that respect for Andy.
“It’s great working with him,” Rosie said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better manager for the store.”
Things looked even better when Andy started to meet the pharmacy’s customers of which the staff knows about 99 percent. The customers were pleasant and easy to serve.
“They’re relaxed,” is how Andy described the customers. “If you don’t have what they need for some reason, they just say ‘oh that’s alright, I’ll come back tomorrow’.”
While the customers were a little more wary at first of the new face behind the counter, they warmed up quickly.
“People don’t get angry about much here,” Andy observed. “I’d rather be here than in the big city.”
The other part of the situation that Andy has come to appreciate is that most of the prescriptions he fills are from the Kickapoo Valley Medical Clinic, which is literally right next door. Both the clinic and the pharmacy are now owned by Vernon Memorial Healthcare. Knowing and working with the staff prescribing the drugs is a definite plus, according to Andy.
Could anything be improved at the Solar Town Pharmacy?
Well, Andy thinks the store could use some better signage, but that’s about it. He’s planning on looking into some signage options.
Andy, like so many pharmacists in the state, was educated at UW-Madison. He graduated from pharmacy school in 1996. He is also a graduate of Janesville Parker High School.
Interestingly, he met his wife Emily at the Dahl Pharmacy in Viroqua, where she worked, while he was doing his internship from pharmacy school.
Andy credits Emily with teaching him most of what he knows about the pharmacy business.
Andy and Emily have a 15-year-old son, Christian, who is home-schooled. The family lives in rural Viroqua.
Andy Nelson and the Solar Town Pharmacy seem made for each other and that’s a big benefit for the community that the rural pharmacy serves.
As for the future of the pharmacy in Soldiers Grove, Andy believes it appears solid.
“Right now it looks good,” the pharmacist said. “We’re tied to a critical access hospital (Vernon Memorial Healthcare) and that’s important. We’ll be able to stay open here, because of the prices we get through being with the critical access hospital.”
In addition to the work at the pharmacy, Andy has a project underway to fill a wall at the back of the store with pictures of old Soldiers Grove. He’s inviting everyone to bring in their old pictures. A few are already in place.
And lest you think Andy Nelson is too busy with work for anything else, you need to see Andy play music sometime. Maybe on Sunday, Sept. 17, when Andy will be playing with “the largest and oldest, old-time orchestra from the Viroqua area” at the Driftless Brewery after party. The party at the brewery, located in Solar Town, starts when the art fair closes down on Sunday. So don’t miss your chance to see pharmacist Andy Nelson playing bass with Whiskey Chiken at the Driftless Brewery.