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Digest

Everyone is a friend at this pharmacy

By TIMES WIRES
Published November 13, 2006


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INVERNESS

Bob Brashear is on a first-name basis with most of his patrons.

"Everyone is a friend here," he said, taking a break from filling prescriptions at his busy Citrus County pharmacy. "It means a lot to look someone in the eye and show them compassion."

That kind of personal contact draws loyal customers. Which is why, in an age where Walgreen Co. and CVS have swallowed up many mom-and-pop shops, Brashear's local pharmacy is thriving.

In fact, it's expanding.

By spring, Brashear plans to open his second pharmacy. The new Lecanto facility is just part of his long-term business plan.

"I hope to have three or four pharmacies someday, all in the county," he said.

Located near the Allen Ridge medical mall off County Road 491, the new location will be the "fun pharmacy," with a deli or cafe, Brashear said. Customers have already started suggesting names, like "Pills and Dills."

"I'm not quite sure yet what it will be, but whatever it is, it will taste good," Brashear said.

Brashear "is never too busy to talk to you and answer questions," said Betty Santana, 81. "In bigger pharmacies, you pay your money, get your pills and walk out with no personal instruction."

SPRING HILL

It's not easy being a real estate agent

The ongoing depression in the real estate market has transformed the lives of brokers and agents, said Jeanne Gavish, the former president of the Hernando County Association of Realtors.

Fewer sales naturally means fewer commissions. Many of Gavish's investment properties have lingered on the market. Attendance has plummeted at some classes at the real estate school she owns in Spring Hill.

But at least, she said, there is a renewed appreciation for what an experienced agent can do. Sellers need agents with the connections and knowledge to sell a house.

"We're relevant again," Gavish said.

They probably will be for a while, said Per Berglund, a senior economist with Moody's Economy.com. The housing slump in the Tampa Bay area began earlier than many real estate agents realized, he said, and the conditions will likely be more persistent.

CLEARWATER

If you need a car, and need cash, here's help

Margaret Williams-Lewis, mother of four, needed a car, but she had credit problems.

She turned to Ways to Work, a national program that provides low-interest auto loans to working parents who have less-than-average credit scores. The program, with offices in St. Petersburg and Clearwater, is based on the principle that reliable transportation can help low-income families thrive financially.

Williams-Lewis, 29, qualified for a $3,000 car loan in January. She lives in Clearwater and drives to her job as a medical biller in a '98 Plymouth Voyager.

"Everybody falls on hard times," said Williams-Lewis. "Although bills are important, sometimes you fall behind because you're thinking about putting food on the table."

The program, funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, operates in more than 20 states. Locally, it's based out of the Family Services Center in St. Petersburg at 928 22nd Ave. S.

"Sometimes this is the piece of the puzzle that brings everything together," said Adam Mayefsky of Ways to Work.

For more information, call (727) 824-0910.

SPRING HILL

What are you doing at 3 a.m.? Working out?

All over around here, there are dump trucks and dirt movers, and permits and plans, and buildings getting built all lickety-split. Hernando County continues to grow. This means many things.

And now ... this: the ability to work out at 3 a.m.

Anytime Fitness, open 7-Eleven-style - 24 hours a day, seven days a week - is expected to be ready this month in the new Silverthorn Square strip center at Barclay Avenue and Powell Road.

This puts the fastest-growing coed fitness franchise in the fastest-growing area of one of the fastest-growing counties in Florida.

Anytime Fitness has locations in 41 states and Canada.

"I think there's a real need for a coed, 24-hour fitness center here," club manager Peter McNamara said. "I think it's going to appeal to people on many levels."

Then and now

How much has downtown New Port Richey changed in the past decade? Consider the view from Karen's Gifts:

Neighboring businesses

1996: Nightclub, chocolate shop, florist, antique store.

2006: Soon-to-be bar and grill, skin care and spa, art gallery. Karen's Gifts has expanded into the old florist and antique store.

Downtown street issues

1996: City finishes a $3-million streetscaping project that dramatically spruces up Main Street.

2006: City approves conceptual plans for Railroad Square streetscaping project to draw more shoppers, diners and events to Nebraska Avenue; waiting until next fiscal year to fund the engineering plans.

Hacienda Hotel

1996: Historic Hacienda Hotel being used as home for disabled people.

2006: Hotel empty, but developers are hoping to turn the building into a luxury hotel, with an addition to include more rooms and shops.

Familiar faces

1996: Executive director of New Port Richey Community Cooperative, the predecessor to the Greater New Port Richey Main Street program, is Marilynn deChant; city mayor is Peter Altman.

2006: DeChant is council member; Altman is a partner in Main Street Landing project.

[Last modified November 13, 2006, 08:59:13]


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