Pharmacy Quietly Transits to New Era Yet Stays Independent

Sam Birdsong, Pharmacist at Parker's Pharmacy in Holtville on Thursday who plans to wind down his career soon.

Sam Birdsong, Pharmacist at Parker’s Pharmacy in Holtville on Thursday who plans to wind down his career soon.

The curtain is about to draw on a long and successful career by pharmacist Sam Birdsong at Parker’s Pharmacy in downtown Holtville, but he remains a fixture thanks to savvy ‘horse trading.’

The new owner is an independent pharmacist too and part of the sales negotiation had Birdsong continue as an employee for the business he sold.

“The sale went through in April and I didn’t want to sell to a chain, which would have taken our files (customer logs) and aggressively turned it into a local chain,” said Birdsong. “That was part of our agreement. I want to help out the new owner until he can find somebody else. There’s no pressing need for me to retire, I’ve been here 35 years.”

Now that physician Vincent Soun recently returned to town, residents’ healthcare choices can revolve around a hometown ambiance providing a one-stop shop for prescriptions, health intervention and a pharmacy to keep the town’s populace feeling their best.

“I’m working part-time now so during the changeover it’s always good to show an old face with the new that makes the transition easier,” said Birdsong. “I like being a part-time pharmacist; it gives me more time to take care of repairs.”

Birdsong and his wife Mirna live on a small ranch where they raised their three daughters, Millie, Sadie and Brise. They had several horses and the entire family liked to ride, especially the girls who competed in rodeo and trail trials.

“Working part time I give more attention to maintenance at home. There’s always something to mend.  But we’re planning to visit our daughter, Millie, who is a biologist in Sacramento,” he said. “She works for the state as a mine inspector.”

Once fully retired what he said he will miss most are the people. Birdsong hailed from the oil and gas boom town of Farmington, New Mexico, where his parents were school teachers. His brother, Jim, worked a pharmacy in El Centro and alerted him to when Parker’s Pharmacy had become available.

“I like Holtville. Very quaint little town,” said Birdsong. “The first customers we had were older. But now we see younger people–or maybe it’s just me growing old.”

Over the course of his career he has seen new medication that has made a difference in people’s lives. New antibiotic and antiviral medications were especially critical, he said, as well as tried and true remedies for more common ailments.

“It’s nice to be able to treat conditions like asthma and diabetes,” said Birdsong. “New therapies have extended people’s lives and improved the quality of their health.”

Yet, after a substantial career, it is time to let somebody else to take over the pharmacy, a new generation, he noted. Now that he has got all his girls through college it seemed time to slow down.

“So being the sole proprietor there isn’t any time to get away and see places; you’re kind of married to the job,” he said. “Yet now we’ll have some time to travel, but the store is where we raised our kids.”


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