Some things move so fast it's hard to keep up with what's happening. First, the Pronto pharmacies in Joplin and Webb City closed after being purchased by Walgreens. That came out of nowhere. Now, a new pharmacy, Express Rx, is set to occupy the storefronts that once housed the Pronto pharmacies.

A telephone call to Galen Perkins, the CEO of Express Rx, a pharmaceutical retailer with 150 employees and 18 stores in eight states, provided the backstory that explains what's happening.

Perkins was a pharmacist with Mays drugstore at 33rd and Main streets from 2000 to 2006. When USA Drug, the owner of Mays, sold out to Walgreens, Perkins and some partners purchased the Mays store in Miami, Oklahoma, and another drugstore, Vista, in Carthage. They became Express Rx stores.

The company expanded with the acquisition of 10 stores in the Fred's drugstore chain, making Express Rx a regional chain with sustainable buying power for its customers. Express Rx opened its first headquarters office in Little Rock, Arkansas, in November.

When the Pronto pharmacies closed, the door opened for Express Rx to enter.

"We were eager to get back to the Joplin-Webb City market,'' Perkins said.

When Walgreens purchased the Pronto stores, it purchased its prescription files. Customers are free to transfer their business to Walgreens or to any pharmacy they choose.

"We are starting from zero,'' Perkins said. "We believe our business model, which is more relational rather than a transaction, will bring to us people who are looking for that kind of customer service.''

Perkins noted that pharmacies are one of the few places where you can walk in off the street and ask someone for professional health guidance.

The Express Rx pharmacies, located at 1227 E. 32nd St. in Joplin and 501 S. Madison St. in Webb City, are set to open in April.

Looking ahead

The Macy's stores in Joplin's Northpark Mall are not among those that have been identified by the company for a first round of closures, which are part of a larger cost-cutting plan that includes shuttering approximately 125 stores over three years.

The 30 Macy's stores that will be closed, according to the company, are located in low-tier malls in 19 states. About 2,000 jobs will be affected. Macy's has not disclosed which stores will be shut down in future rounds of closures expected to be carried out through 2022.

No one should be surprised by what's happening in the retail market. Macy's has no special immunity to the same online purchasing trend that has affected other big-box retailers. Sears, long a fixture in the nation’s 1,169 malls, has fallen from 863 stores in 2000 to about 540 today — nearly 40% of its fleet. J.C. Penney had 1,075 stores in 2002. That number declined to 864 last year.

On track

The new Dairy Queen Grill & Chill, 604 S. Madison St. in Webb City, is on track for a March 11 opening. Range Line Road becomes Madison Street in Webb City.

The store will employ about 60 people. Job applications are still being taken, according to Brian Hankins, the general manager.

Hankins said the hiring process has gone smoothly and that about 25 people have been employed. The remainder will be hired by the March 1 employee orientation. For job information, call 417-621-5444.

Hankins started his career with Dairy Queen when he was 16 years old. He has worked at the Dairy Queen in Galena, Kansas.

"I have opened a few stores over the past 20 years,'' he said.

That's going to be important because restaurant-goers often decide whether they like a place based on their initial visit.

The west side of the 600 block of South Madison began the transition from residential to commercial in 2016 with the construction of a new Dollar Tree store at 610 S. Madison. The new Dairy Queen is being constructed north of that store. A new Domino's will be constructed south of the Dollar Tree.

If you have news about something that’s happening on Range Line Road or Main Street, call 417-623-3480, ext. 7250; or send an email to wkennedy@joplinglobe.com; or send a fax to Wally Kennedy at 417-623-8598.

Wally Kennedy is a reporter and columnist for The Joplin Globe.

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