In November 2020, Purdy Cost Less Pharmacy, owned and operated by Don Zimmerman for over 40 years, changed ownership. Zimmerman’s son and daughter-in-law, Drew and Allison Zimmerman, bought the business in the Lake Kathryn Shopping Center, keeping it in the family.
“Don was adamant that he refused to sell to chains. He’s been hounded by Walgreens and Rite Aid,” Allison said. “He just didn’t want to sell to a chain because he really wants the local pharmacy out on the Key to know their customers.”
Drew Zimmerman grew up working in his dad’s pharmacy while living in Lakebay.
“I think my first job was when my dad dropped me off in sixth grade to sweep the parking lot,” he said. “The only time I left is when I went over to Washington State University and then came back. So I’ve been in here and I’ve known a lot of these customers for a long time, so that’s what we want to continue, making sure everybody out on the peninsula is taken care of. My dad’s done such a great job out here in taking care of the community and that’s why we want to continue that legacy.”
Although Drew and Allison are not pharmacists, they have decades of experience in the industry. For 24 years, Drew has run Cost Less Senior Services, a separate closed-door pharmacy started by Don Zimmerman with the goal of providing low-cost prescriptions to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, prisons and other institutions.
“Don saw his customers going into assisted living and nursing home facilities and when you go into a facility like that, they encourage you, almost force you, to use their pharmacy provider. Then they’d charge them like $30 for Tylenol and Don was just enraged this was happening. So he opened up Cost Less Senior Services,” Allison said. “For the first three years, it was really a struggling business. Then Drew graduated from college and was selling hunting and fishing gear and not making any money and so he was like, ‘Let me try, Dad.’ ”
“We’re now the preferred provider for Washington State and Drew has continued to run a very successful business with his partner, Jeff Hendrickson,” she said. “There have been Christmas Eves where Drew has driven out prescriptions to someone’s family.”
Drew and Allison were both raised by pharmacists. Don Zimmerman met Allison’s dad, Al Linggi, while attending pharmacy school at the University of Washington. Linggi went on to become a hospital pharmacist at St. Joseph Medical Center and Zimmerman opened Cost Less.
“They were friends long before we got together,” Allison said.
Although Drew and Allison knew each other growing up, they didn’t often cross paths because he was four years older and her family lived in Fircrest. Then, in 2001, Allison reconnected with Drew at his brother’s wedding reception and less than a year later, they were married. They now live five minutes away from Cost Less with their four children, Kate (15), Grace (14), Henry (12), Drew (5) and their dog, Oscar.
“We are so grateful to the community we live in. We have some of the nicest, most genuine people,” Allison said. “And we still have that super-loyal customer base and for that we are just really thankful.”
The store’s new, open layout, aimed at improving the customer experience, has taken some people by surprise. Shelves have been lowered so more products are at eye level and easier to reach. The store’s interior has been repainted and LED lighting installed. There are new vendors, including an expanded yarn selection with high-end options. And there is still fishing and hunting gear, as well as vitamins and supplements, toys, gifts and all sorts of other odds and ends.
Allison has been working on the improvements with newly hired merchandise buyer, Rena Blalock, who worked for Nordstrom for 25 years while raising her three kids on the KP.
“Her customer service is amazing,” Allison said. “In order to differentiate ourselves from the big chains, we really need to go back to being the Nordstrom of pharmacy. You’re going to get that here. You’re going to get the mom who is going to make sure you get what you need. We want to do that.
“Our plan is to still remain that last stop before you leave the peninsula, and you don’t want to go to Target or you don’t want to go to Albertson’s. We’re going to have that item for you. We have greeting cards. We have screws. There are arts and crafts, puzzles. There are so many things inside our store. And we save you a trip to town.”
UNDERWRITTEN BY NEWSMATCH/MIAMI FOUNDATION, THE ANGEL GUILD, ROTARY CLUB OF GIG HARBOR, ADVERTISERS, DONORS AND PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT LOCAL, INDEPENDENT NONPROFIT NEWS