As this country celebrates a century and a half of existence, a Bashaw business will mark its own milestone.
The local pharmacy — known now as Bashaw Drugs — is turning 106 years old, but it will soon do something the business has never done before.
Presently owned and operated by Ted and Diane Szumlas, the business is set to be purchased by their daughter Georgina and her husband Eric Gaudet next year — marking the first time the business will transition and stay within the same family.
It’s a little bit unusual for this type of business, you don’t usually pass the torch to the next generation in the family. In the old days, you apprenticed before taking over,” Diane said.
While the pharmacy is continuing a family business, it will actually be Eric who will be running the show.
“This is actually my second career, as I used to work for Telus,” Eric stated. “The problem was there was no work-life balance and we really wanted to raise a family in a small town. So, I went back to school, but with no plans to take over. However, it’s worked out.”
Georgina added it also took a leap of faith too. That was because Eric had to upgrade before working to obtain his degree and that meant a number of sacrifices and getting some help.
While Eric and Georgina will be taking on the responsibility for caring and assisting the community shortly, Ted and Diane will leave them a good example to follow after 16 years of operation — just like the previous pharmacy owners had done for them.
The Szumlas both held terms on Bashaw town council and have been active in the community in various ways, similar to several of the former owners and their families had been.
The pair purchased Bashaw Drugs in January 1992 from George and Louise Darichuk, who operated the business for 25 years, the second longest period of time one pharmacist had run the business.
And the owner who operated the longest — 33 years — was John Pearson, who sold the operation to Darichuk.
Pearson purchased the pharmacy in 1934 from Bill Hawker, who only had it for six years after buying it from George Smythe about four years earlier. Smythe had bought the business from Sydney Eversfield. Eversfield ran the operation after buying it in 1915 from the original pharmacist Horace Rayner, who opened the pharmacy in 1911, the same year Bashaw officially became a village.
In those early years, pharmacists provided everything the community could need — from first aid to supplying medicinal spirits during prohibition — while also being a key member in providing health care to the people.
And while that role has changed over time, each individual pharmacist has brought their own wealth of knowledge, their own style and personality to the practice while also showing a deep commitment to their patients.