A Pharmacy Fills a Void On Red Bank’s West Side

July 8, 2017
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Pharmacist Ritesh Shah, who owns four other independent drug stores in New Jersey, recently opened a pharmacy in an underserved section of Red Bank at 224 Shrewsbury Ave.

By John Burton |

RED BANK — There is a relationship that develops between a pharmacy, and its pharmacist, and the community it serves that goes beyond simply a business-customer one. And it’s been a long time since West Side residents had a neighborhood location to meet their needs. That is, atleast until a couple of weeks ago.

Early in June, Ritesh Shah opened the Shrewsbury Avenue Pharmacy to serve the community.

“As a medical professional,” said Shah, who is the licensed pharmacist for his store, “when people are suffering, have a medical condition, as a pharmacist you can play an important role in helping people.

“It’s a bond,” he said.

This is Shah’s fifth independently-owned pharmacy. His other locations are in Holmdel, Keansburg, Martinsville and Howell with another one opening soon in Marlboro.

The reason for the Red Bank location is simple, he saying, “This community is underserved.” Shah was speaking specifically of the borough’s West Side, with its traditionally minority population, including a large immigrant contingent, with many of them having limited transportation options. Without another drug store in the neighborhood, locals would have to go about a mile to one of the other locations within the community, such as the pharmacy at the City Centre Plaza shopping center, Water Street, or on Broad Street—no small matter for the elderly or a parent with a sick child and no car, Shah pointed out.

A lack of a West Side pharmacy has been the case since 2004 when Katsin’s closed its facility after operating at its 192 Shrewsbury Ave. location for 70 years. Katsin’s continued as sort of convenience store for another couple of years before eventually its owners shuttered the entire business.

Shah had been working on the location for about two years, building the structure containing 2,200-square-foot drug store on what had been a vacant lot. Along with filling people’s prescriptions, the modest location sells the usual but limited array of over-the-counter medications and other sundry items, such as greeting cards. Customers shortly will be able to get money orders, send money via wire service and pay utility bills at the store.

Included in his inventory are products specifically popular with the Hispanic clientele, with Shah noting, “You have to sell what people want.”

The goal, he said, is “We’ll be a small apothecary pharmacy.”

In addition to the typical items found in a pharmacy, the store caters to the needs of the hispanic population in the neighborhood

Shah, 45, grew up in India and moved to the U.S. when he was in his 20s and has been a pharmacist for about 20 years. He lives in Freehold with his wife, Pasha, and their two children, a son, Sarehak, 19, and daughter, Krina, 16. Pasha, who is also a pharmacist, will work with Shah in the Red Bank location.

To help establish that community connection, Shah plans on working with area houses of worship, community organizations and others to conduct programs on healthy living and addressing chronic health conditions. Here and in his other locations, he sees patients who are dealing with diabetes, hypertension and asthma. Among his customers, he noted, “Asthma is huge.” 

Playing this role in the community and having the facility so conveniently situated will be a benefit, said Mary Nicosa, director/clinical coordinator of the Parker Family Health Center, located just across the street at 211 Shrewsbury Ave. The health center is available to patients without health insurance coverage and the working poor in the Red Bank area. Nicosa said relationships with pharmacies provides that “continuing connection for community health.”

“It’s another level of care,” available to what can be a particularly vulnerable portion of the population, she continued.

“It’s a chain,” Shah explained that relationship, extending from the doctor or other health care provider, to the pharmacist, who can offer immediate general information along with the needed medication, extending to the patients, improving their quality of life.

“We can work very closely with the doctor,” Shah said. “We can be an important part of that chain.”

Shrewsbury Avenue Pharmacy is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., closed Sundays.

This article was first published in the July 6-13, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.

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