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Astrup Drug closes Sterling-Downtown

Downtown Austin is losing one of it’s only retail and convenience stores.

After decades in business, Astrup Drug Inc. is closing Sterling Drug-Downtown. All of the pharmacy services have been consolidated to the Sterling Main Street location, which Sam Ewing, director of operations, said will now be Atrup Drug’s busiest retail pharmacy.

“It’s tough,” he said. “People have complained that they’re losing a store downtown … But at the end of the day you have to make money, and it’s a tough economy right now.”

A number of factors contributed to the decision. The retail portion of the store was struggling, and long-time pharmacist Bob Glowack recently retired. Along with a difficulty economy, Ewing said there’s been a surge in new pharmacies with Walmart and Walgreens coming to town.

“The economy’s not great,” Ewing said. “There’s no shortage of pharmacies in Austin.”

The pharmacy portion of the store closed May 14 soon after Glowack retired. The retail portion of the store is tentatively scheduled to close June 4, depending on how much stock remains.

Of the five remaining employees, the two pharmacy technicians moved to Sterling Main Street. The future of the other part-time employees isn’t as certain.

With two stores in town, Ewing said it was a logical decision to combine to two. While he understands why some customers could be unhappy with the change, he said they’re working to make for a smooth transition. He said the goal is to maintain the customer base at the Main Street location.

“You have to change and adapt,” Ewing said. “And when you have two pharmacies in town — literally a mile apart — it makes a lot of sense to consolidate things under one roof.”

“When you’re not a massive company, you need to make good business decisions, and combining two stores into one is a good business decision,” he added.

Astrup Drug owns the downtown building, and the company is discussing a potential sale to the Hormel Historic Home.

Ewing said the move gives the company opportunities to do other things. Astrup Drug opened a new store in Byron in April, and a new store will open next week in Osage.

“It’s not like we’re going anywhere,” Ewing said. “We’re reinvesting in the business.”