Family-run pharmacy that thrives at Rx deliveries was ahead of COVID curve

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Christopher DeVargas

Gabriel Rivero, a delivery driver for First Class Rx Pharmacy, hand-delivers a prescription to an adult daycare facility Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021.

Sat, Feb 27, 2021 (2 a.m.)

Before the coronavirus pandemic made medicine delivery not just convenient but prudent, the locally owned First Class Rx Pharmacy had its niche.

In a bright and bustling headquarters at Desert Inn and Sandhill roads, pharmacists and technicians swiftly fill and bag orders, staple the bags shut, then place them into bins with the pace of a diner kitchen during the lunch rush. 

From there, one of about half a dozen drivers — wearing red and black Nikes that coordinate with the color scheme of their company cars — takes a batch to one of the fleet cars and out to patient homes, medical offices and workplaces.

First Class Rx has delivered valleywide since opening in 2014, and business has only grown in the past year, said manager Sandra Martin. Already used by people who can’t drive or who couldn’t easily get out of the house pre-pandemic, she thinks the wider preference for delivery is here to stay, part of the new normal.

A courier like Gabriel Rivero will load up deliveries in fruit crates and make 60 to 70 stops a day. Clients tend to be seniors or people with disabilities and they quickly become familiar, although being on the road all day keeps things from getting stale.

“I just don’t like being stuck in the same place for eight hours,” said Rivero, who was a bartender looking for something new when a pharmacy owner who frequented his bar offered him a job five years ago.

Some customers prefer contactless delivery or pulley systems to reach upstairs apartments, but just as bars have regulars who get to know the staff, so do pharmacies. Some of Rivero’s customers offer him lunch or write him Christmas cards, or they’ll ask the young man, 26, for help with chores — take out the trash, replace a lightbulb — and he’s happy to oblige. 

Martin’s brother Abel Cabrera started the business with 12 patients. It grew by word of mouth, and now fills scripts for 3,000 patients.

Martin said many patients are lonesome and call the pharmacy just to talk. Others request a favored driver. Customers are loyal, and at a family-run pharmacy that meets people when they’re ill or in need of help, it’s mutual.

“And we’re gonna be there, no matter what,” Martin said.

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