The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

December 1, 2012

Wally Kennedy: Little guy making big comeback with pharmacy

By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
Globe Staff Writer

JOPLIN, Mo. — It’s always great news to hear when someone comes back from the May 2011 tornado. But this return is especially interesting.

Pronto Pharmacy will open a new shop Dec. 15 in the City Pointe shopping center at 501 S. Madison St. It already has opened a storefront in the Town Center Plaza at 1227 E. 32nd St.

Pronto Pharmacy is occupying the southernmost suite in City Pointe. It’s a 4,000-square-foot storefront. A new drive-through window is being added at this time. The storefront in Town Center Plaza was formerly occupied by Wilkinson’s Pharmacy. It has 5,200 square feet. It, too, has a drive-through window.

These new sites are much larger than the previous Pronto Pharmacy at the southwest corner of 26th Street and McClelland Boulevard. It was about 800 square feet, but its size was deceptive. It was a busy pharmacy before it was flattened by the tornado. It had been there since 1983. You might remember the story about Rance Junge, who rode out the storm by hanging on to a toilet. That happened at the Pronto Pharmacy.

This expansion will allow Pronto Pharmacy to expand what it can offer to its customers, including durable medical equipment, oxygen, mobility lifts, orthopedic supplies and a bunch of other stuff. A respiratory therapist will be on staff. You will be able to get flu shots now at Pronto Pharmacy.

As Jerry Carpenter, the owner, said, “It’s Pronto on steroids.’’

What makes this return interesting is the shake-up that’s under way in Joplin’s pharmacy market. Walgreens has purchased the Mays drugstores in Joplin, closing one store on East Seventh Street and another on Madison Street in Webb City. It’s not clear what’s going to happen with the Mays store at 33rd and Main streets. While Walgreens is consolidating its grip on Joplin, rumors are circulating that CVS Pharmacy, a key competitor, is looking for property in Joplin.

For Carpenter, it could have been easy to just throw in the towel. Instead, this Joplin native is digging in his heels. This is your classic David-versus-Goliath fight. He has already achieved a couple of hits by hiring technicians from the old Mays stores to work in his stores.

These technicians could have taken a severance package that would have prevented them from working in any Joplin pharmacy for two years. Instead, they went to work for Carpenter. Pat Brown, who worked at the Mays store on East Seventh Street for 40 years, is one of them. Another is Loretta Ritchie, who had 15 years of experience at the Mays store in Webb City.

Carpenter also is bringing back the staff from the old pharmacy at 26th and McClelland. Among them are Nena Endicott, Hannah Reed, Kelli Kinzer and Kim Turner.

So, what’s the point? It’s about the importance of skilled people. If you’re going to pick a fight with the big boys, you’d better have some people in your corner.

Corporate office

Ground was broken Friday at 2340 S. Range Line Road for a new corporate office for Innovative Objects, the parent company of PILR, Audio Input and Wyerless.

The company is constructing a 40,000-square-foot building that will have three floors and a basement, which will do double duty as a tornado shelter. The estimated cost is $5 million. The contractor is Crossland Construction, of Columbus, Kan.

You can bet this new corporate office will feature state-of-the-art technology, because the sister companies in this venture specialize in the latest products in entertainment and environmental-control systems. The top floor will have a conference room and training center. The second floor will be for offices. The ground floor will be a showroom for the latest technology.

The expansion will permit the company to expand its work force by 25 to 30 people who will work in software development, database management, website designs, mobile applications, graphic design and marketing.

This is a big leap forward for a company that 10 years ago consisted of two guys working out of the back of an SUV, said Russ Grundy, CEO of Innovative Objects.

“We are proud to call Joplin home and happy we are able to contribute to Joplin’s growth and economy by bringing highly desirable jobs to the community,’’ he said.

The property is within walking distance of Rib Crib, McAlister’s Deli, KFC and El Vallarta. Won’t that be convenient for the people who work there?

If you have news about something that’s happening on Range Line Road or Main Street, call 623-3480, ext. 7250; or send an email to; or send a fax to Wally Kennedy at 623-8598.