CVS buys longtime Region staple Fagen Pharmacy, will close 12 stores

This Fagen Pharmacy opened in 2014 on Calumet Avenue in Valparaiso. CVS is buying the chain out and will phase out tobacco sales at the eight stores it plans to convert. 

Another longtime Region brand is poised to disappear, and a dozen stores will close in the process.

CVS Pharmacy plans to buy the 45-year-old family-owned Fagen Pharmacy chain, which has 20 locations in Northwest Indiana and Chicago's south suburbs. The purchase price was not disclosed.

Rhode Island-based CVS, one of the largest pharmacy chains in the country, will convert eight of the stores into CVS-branded pharmacies, and close 12 locations. Pharmacy files will be transferred to nearby CVS locations.

“I’d like to thank all of our patients and employees for their loyalty and dedication over the past 45 years,” Fagen Pharmacy Owner Gerald A. Fagen said. “I’m grateful to have been able to serve the pharmacy needs of our community and I am confident that CVS Pharmacy will provide the same top-notch customer service and pharmacy expertise we have provided at Fagen Pharmacy.”

CVS said it expects to hire "many Fagen employees" who work at the locations that will remain open, but did not respond to questions about how many will keep their jobs. It was not immediately clear how many Fagen employees will be laid off during the widespread job loss that will take place when 12 pharmacies are shuttered.

Some Fagen sites closing

CVS plans to keep open the Fagen locations at 10809 Randolph St. in Crown Point; 3400 N. Calumet Ave. in Valparaiso; 3612 Village Court in Gary; 2106 Broadway in East Chicago; 1301 119th St. in Whiting; 1350 Broadway in Gary; 710 Franklin St. in Michigan City, and 1195 E. Ridge Road in Griffith. These stores will be converted to CVS in September.

Fagen Pharmacy locations will close at 325A N. Halleck St. in DeMotte; 3892 W. Ind. 10 in Wheatfield; 10064 N. 600 E in Roselawn; 65 E. Montgomery in Francesville; 156 Flynn Road in Westville; 390 U.S. 6, Ste. 1131 in South Haven; 7760 E. 37th Ave. in Hobart; 715 Dixie Highway in Beecher; 5500 Hohman Ave. in Hammond; 5001 E. U.S. 12 in Gary's Miller neighborhood; 7905 Calumet Ave. in Munster; and 1001 Sturdy Road, Ste. 201 in Valparaiso.  

CVS is referring patients to nearby pharmacies, which are a short walk away in the case of Munster or more than 18 miles away in some of the rural areas.

"I haven't been to Fagen Pharmacy in a while, but I'm sad about this," Hobart resident Chuck Snitchler said. "It's a local business being taken over by another big corporation."

Gary's Miller neighborhood, which is home to million-dollar lakefront homes, will be left without a pharmacy after Walgreens closed there in June. Miller Business Association President George Rogge said a group of community and political leaders will reach out to CVS about building a new pharmacy near the South Shore Line station that's going to be redeveloped as part of the double-tracking project.

"This just hits us right in the face," Rogge said. "There will be nothing here. This is upsetting." 

Miller Spotlight community builder Jessica Renslow said it was frustrating that both Walgreens and Fagen would close at a time when the neighborhood was making so many positive steps, such as through the opening of new stores and the introduction of a bike-sharing program.

"It means we officially have no pharmacy in a community of 16,600-some people," she said. "It's an odd situation with what's about to happen with the double-tracking and the development that should bring in. I'm still optimistic someone will see the benefit in being here."

Looking back

Fagen's departure is a blow toward making the community more senior-friendly, since it was known for delivering prescriptions to residents' homes.

Gary native Gerald Fagen, who stocked shelves and cleaned up at Glen Park Pharmacy before going on to pharmacy school at Purdue University, founded Fagen Pharmacy in 1972 "on the premise that it could provide professional pharmaceutical services in a more friendly and helpful environment than what existed in the marketplace."

The local chain has had slogans like "Your Family Has a Friend at Fagen's" and "Filling Your Family's Needs for 45 Years." It grew to as many as 21 locations, mostly in Northwest Indiana, and also served assisted living facilities, group homes, correctional facilities and hospice patients throughout the Region.

Fagen maintained a robust presence in North Lake County, and recently rebuilt stores in Valparaiso and the Indiana Harbor neighborhood of East Chicago so they were more modern standalone stores with drive-thrus. It long maintained a presence in downtown Gary before relocating that pharmacy to Midtown a few years ago.

Earlier this year, it was forced to close locations in Lansing and Chicago Heights, which were inside Ultra Foods stores, because of the bankruptcy of Ultra parent company Central Grocers. It sold the prescription files at both stores to CVS.

CVS has more than 9,700 locations nationwide and offers automatic refills, immunizations and text alerts to let patients know when their prescriptions are ready. The chain said it will offer more health, beauty and personal care products at the former Fagen stores.

“CVS Pharmacy looks forward to bringing its innovative pharmacy care programs and services to Fagen Pharmacy patients in Indiana and Illinois,” said Everett Moore, CVS Pharmacy vice president. “We will continue to provide excellent care to patients and look forward to introducing our industry-leading offerings at these new locations.”

CVS plans to phase out sales of cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco at the former Fagen pharmacies after it ended the sale of tobacco products in its stores in 2014.

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Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.