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Dayton drugstore dispenses one millionth prescription

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Elk Drug pharmacist and co-owner Sean Thurston with customer Mindy Betzler, whose prescription was the shop’s one millionth received from a provider. This being the age of coronavirus, even the elk overhead is wearing a mask in the pharmacy.

There are records and then there are Records of Significant Note.

Elk Drug, a going concern in Dayton since at least 1889, the year Washington became a state, recently handed out its millionth (!) prescription received from a provider.

“This is not the same as the number of prescriptions dispensed, since many prescriptions include a number of refills,” said pharmacist Sean Thurston, who for nearly 10 years has co-owned Elk Drug, 176 E. Main St., with wife Andee Schmick Thurston.

While he believes the number started at zero in 1889, they can’t be sure as the store’s records don’t go back that far.

The recipient of the remarkable milestone is customer Mindy Betzler. To note the milestone, she received a gift card from Skyline Parts of Dayton and a gift basket with items from Elk Drug.

Mindy was surprised and delighted. She owns Dingle’s of Dayton across the street, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year,

“Isn’t that a riot,” she told the Dayton Chronicle. “It’s pretty fun. I got a lovely basket and a nice card. They’re a great bunch of people.” She added that she’d “never been the millionth anything.”

Sean and Andee began talking a few months back about the millionth coming up and what they might do to commemorate it, he told me in an interview Monday.

“We felt like it was a big deal and we should do something about it.”

The number threw a wrench in the works, however. “After we hit that one millionth, it added another numerical value in our computer software but then it wouldn’t communicate so we reset the number back down to 100,000 as it just works better to leave as a six-digit number,” Sean said.

Sean and Andee came from Whitman County to buy the drug store — she originally from Endicott and he from Palouse. He said on Monday that Elk Drug is one of the oldest pharmacies in the state.

It’s the only pharmacy in Columbia County and also serves patients in Waitsburg and Walla Walla.

The store does specialized medication packaging and delivers in Walla Walla three days per week. Most patients are with aging and long-term care and comprehensive health care here, he said.

“Prescription wise, we service long-term care and group homes in Dayton and adult family homes in Walla Walla. We’re not only retail, but service special populations.”

Despite the coronavirus, “business is good, it’s stable. We saw an increase in customers initially. We encouraged patients to get a 30-day supply of medications and stay home, so it was busy at first. Then there was a calm time, and now we’re back to normal,” he said.

Employees use barriers, masks, social distancing and other safety practices in the store and customers are following policies.

Additionally, Elk Drug has an old-style soda fountain with ice cream, milkshakes and sodas, but it’s closed right now, Sean said.

They also offer a number of gift items and greeting cards and Sean’s mother, Rita Thurston, has Rita’s Revivals in the shop featuring repurposed antique items.

Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at 509-526-8313 or

annieeveland@wwub.com.

Annie joined the U-B news staff in 1979 and since 1990 has written Etcetera, a daily community column. She was promoted to a copy editing post in 2007. She edits copy, designs and lays out pages, including the weekly arts and entertainment guide Marquee,