It was a part-time job at age 12 that led to Bill Sheeley’s future career as a pharmacist and co-owner of Dedrick’s Pharmacy and Gifts in New Paltz. “I was a caddy at Wiltwyck Golf Club for Louis Nekos, who owned Nekos Pharmacy in Kingston, across the street from the old Dedrick’s,” Sheeley explains, referring to the original Dedrick’s Pharmacy in Kingston that opened in 1857. “At some point during my tenure taking care of him and his partners, caddying for them, he offered me a job. I started there washing dishes at the lunch counter they had and graduated to short order cook in the afternoon. Then the opportunity came to move across the street and get into the pharmacy, where my brother Jack was already working as an intern while he was still in school.”
Pharmacy was to become the family business for the Sheeleys. After graduating high school, Bill followed the same path as his brother and enrolled in the Albany College of Pharmacy. By this time the Nekos family had expanded into New Paltz (the location of the present Dedrick’s Pharmacy and Gifts) and Bill went to work at that location, running the business while still in school. After graduating college in 1968, he began practicing as a pharmacist there, his brother Jack joining him in 1970. The brothers purchased the location from the Nekos family in 1974 and have operated their business there since.
(And there’s another family connection in the story: the pharmacy in Kingston is now the Nekos-Dedrick’s Pharmacy and Bill’s wife Maryann Sheeley, also a pharmacist, is a co-owner of that business.)
Over the years, as the New Paltz pharmacy expanded into the adjoining shop space next door, they added a small selection of gift items to the business; testing the waters, so to speak. As it turned out, the gift selection was a welcome addition to the pharmaceutical business, and today the full-fledged boutique-style gift shop at the location offers a varied selection of artisan quality jewelry and accessories, collectibles, candles and home decor items.
Dedrick’s Pharmacy and Gifts in New Paltz is “the epitome of a local, independently run store,” says Michelle Harris, a longtime employee who manages the gift shop there. And Dedrick’s has survived in the age of big box stores and chains, she says, because of the way it’s run by Bill Sheeley. “What separates us is our customer service; how we personalize everything,” she says. “We know most of the people by name, so we can suggest things that might make their life easier. I think we just go above and beyond, and try to make ourselves available to anyone that walks through the door, and that’s a skill that Bill taught many of us. He puts everybody first before himself so that we can maintain what we have here, and it’s really a testament to him and his management style and how he works.”
Sheeley responds to the praise with a mild, “The staff supports me as much as I support them.” But it does say something that many of his employees have been with the store for decades, as have the customers. It’s getting to the point, in fact, where it’s a multi-generational thing, adds another longtime employee, Susan Stanmyer. She and Harris both say that Dedrick’s was a great place to work while raising children because of the flexibility allowed in their schedules.
There’s also a strong emphasis on community involvement at Dedrick’s. “We try not to say ‘no’ to any local organization that needs some kind of support,” Sheeley says, “although that becomes difficult.” On average, he says, they’re asked once or twice a day for donations of some sort, especially during the spring and summer seasons. And while they’ve never asked for anything in return, they have begun to request that those who receive some type of assistance from Dedrick’s for their endeavors in turn donate to the annual baked goods sale held at the pharmacy every June. Proceeds benefit the nonprofit Share Our Strength organization’s “No Kid Hungry” program.
Recently New Paltz Times sat down with Bill to learn a bit more about a day’s work for the pharmacist. “Basically I do everything that’s necessary to run the business except fill prescriptions on a day-to-day basis,” he said. He has four pharmacists on staff to do that — Melissa “Missy” Burdash, Josephine Griffin, Jared Nekos and Dan Mackey, all with six-year PharmD degrees from Albany College of Pharmacy.
What do you like most about the job?
Helping people; that’s what I really like to do. And I do a lot of research in the health field and on different diseases, and sometimes people come in and ask for recommendations; I like doing that.
What is the hardest thing about your job?
Managing people. I have 24 employees here, and they’re like family to me, so I know a lot about them, and anything that may come up in their entire family affects me and the business. The day-to-day changes in their lives sometimes causes problems with scheduling and things like that; I want to help them out but on the other hand, I have to work at it.
How did you learn the ropes when you began running this store?
Working in the pharmacy in Kingston as a young man really taught me a lot about the business and what to do. It was a “baptism by fire,” more or less; I just got thrown into running this place before I actually got out of school. They put me out here during the day and they would come at night, because they had the other store [in Kingston] to run, so I kind of learned as I went along.
What personal attributes are necessary to do your line of work?
You have to like helping people, and be able to feel people out and treat them in a manner that they can understand what you’re telling them; trying to help them as much as possible with their health needs.
What makes for a really good day?
When everything goes smoothly and everybody has smiles on their faces!
And a bad day?
When things don’t go smoothly… when orders get messed up. For example, today we have several wholesale orders coming in, and there can be errors and we have to fix those; I’m usually the guy that does that. And occasional customer complaints, although they’re few and far in between.
How has the job changed since you started?
There have been a lot of changes! Pharmacy is more into clinical aspects now, caring for the patient, monitoring their drug regimen and making suggestions to physicians, sometimes, or to the patient. We’re also starting to review their prescription profiles, calling them and seeing if they’re taking the medication properly. And of course the medications we have today are just out of this world; what they can do but also how much they cost.
Twenty years ago I would have said technology is the biggest change, but now I’d have to say the biggest changes are in government regulation and insurance. The insurance companies pretty much run the whole prescription show; they choose what patients can get and how much they have to pay for it and how much we get paid for it. And there’s very little regulation in that area… there’s more regulation on us, especially now with the Affordable Care Act. But even before that, the amount of forms and processes you have to go through to even belong to Medicare and stay in the program, or Medicaid… each insurance company has their own credentialing and it’s all the same material, but you have to do it 15 or 20 times. It’s crazy.
And they come up with something new all the time; electronic prescribing, for instance. It’s going to be all electronic; it’ll make our life easier, because doctors don’t have to call and I don’t have to answer the phone, but it’ll have different problems to deal with.
Social media is another way the business has changed. Michelle [Harris] is our social media person, which is important today for being in touch with your customers.
What advice would you give someone going into this field?
Get a lot of experience in the area of pharmacy that you’re going to go into. If you’re going to go into retail, please work at a retail store before you choose that field. If you’re going to go into manufacturing or a hospital, make sure you get some experience there. Hospitals do more compounding and mixing of medications than you find in the retail setting.
What would you be doing for a living if not this?
I always thought about electrical engineering until this came along.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I play golf a lot, and I’m into music and television.
What kind of music?
I’m a ’60s-’70s rock guy… anything up until 2000 is okay and then I have to start getting picky.
Do you see yourself at the same job ten years from now?
No. I’ll be in North Carolina, where my family is. My daughter Kerry and son-in-law, Robert, are both physicians at Fort Bragg, and I have a little granddaughter, Claire.