Around 100 years ago, a man by the name of Milt Storey started a pharmacy in the small town of Stouffville. Down the road at the other end of Main Street stood another pharmacy known as “Houston’s Pharmacy”. Over the past century, pharmacies in Stouffville have changed, just as our town has morphed into the urban area we see today. Inside the establishments where we get our prescriptions, medical-related supplies, and essentials, there is history to discover.
Meet Rob Croxall, a pharmacist of 40 years who is the current owner of Stouffville I.D.A. Rob grew up in Uxbridge – a town north-east of Stouffville. After completing his post-secondary studies at the University of Toronto for Science and Pharmacy, he returned to his Uxbridge roots where he worked for his family friend, Gord Davie, at his pharmacy. Rob reflected, “Mr. Davie was a good role model, I got started at his pharmacy.” Rob worked in Uxbridge for a few years before encountering an opportunity to run his own store, so Rob and his university classmate bought a pharmacy in Maple, Ontario as a start to their business ownership. As Rob said, “Over the years we went around buying pharmacies.”
In 1984, Rob and his partners bought Cliff Aiken’s pharmacy located at 6284 Main Street. Present day, you will find a spa occupying the space. Back then, the pharmacy was referred to as Aiken’s I.D.A. Rob purchased the business knowing he made a smart choice “Aiken’s I.D.A. was a well-respected name,” says Rob. “We wanted our customers to have a sense of comfort at the pharmacy,” and so they did! The pharmacy continued to be referred to as “Aiken’s I.D.A.” for over a decade…and to this day a few customers still know it that way.
In 1996, a new business development was set to open at the corner of Freel and Main Street. Rob and his team decided it was time to move into a larger space. As current store manager Kathy Croxall (Rob’s sister) stated, “It was an opportunity to have a larger store and to be located with other health-related businesses. The building at the time had doctors, dentists, physio, x-ray and ultrasound, and a blood lab.” Kathy goes on to say that before Rob made his final decision to move, he surveyed his current customers to make sure they were okay with making the move up the street and to a building that was slightly above street level.
In 1996, Rob and his team moved into the newly renamed “Stouffville I.D.A.” where it stands to this day.
Eventually, Rob brought in his sister Kathy to run the front of the store full-time. Fifteen years ago, she became the general manager of the Stouffville I.D.A. Since starting full-time, Kathy has brought in the gifts and fashion sections that may be her true passion. “We have a sizable gift section where I try to focus on Canadian made products,” says Kathy. “Before I was here full time we did have a small gift section which, for the most part, our mother and another staff member looked after. I would come in on weekends and work in the section as well. Once I came here full time, we did a renovation which allowed me to expand and diversify the section a lot.”
Meanwhile, at the other end of Main Street stood another pharmacy with a lot of town history. According to archived Stouffville Tribune articles, Houston’s Pharmacy was the first pharmacy in town; it started in the 1880’s. Over the years, Houston’s changed ownership multiple times. Around the time Kathy started in 2006, it was owned by a local pharmacist, Farid Wassef. Currently, Chic Thrills occupies the space.
Farid worked with his father at Houston’s pharmacy for years but decided he wanted to focus on nutritional counselling. So, in 2006 Rob bought Houston’s pharmacy and amalgamated Farid’s counselling to the repertoire of Stouffville I.D.A. services. According to Kathy, “Farid melds traditional medicine with holistic supplements for optimal health.” To this day, Farid and Rob work together at the pharmacy counter.
Since Rob took over the Stouffville I.D.A. 37 years ago, the pharmaceutical industry has changed in town. In the words of Rob, “Stouffville is no longer a small town. Back when we started, there were only three pharmacies in town.” With many more choices now in town pharmacies, it is crucial to stand out. Rob says the personal service aspect is important. He prides himself on providing quality relationships with his patrons and staff. In a town of growing pharmacies, Rob believes the personal service his business offers is important to maintain. As he said, “Personal service is important. Eventually, you get to call customers by name. Some of the pharmacists have been here for 20 years!”
Kathy goes on to say “We happily participate in all downtown Stouffville events, like the annual Moonlight Madness. We feel that it’s important for downtown businesses to work together to strengthen the appeal of the downtown core.”
Recently, Stouffville I.D.A. has adapted to current times and started offering products online. Kathy mentioned, “It was a result of the pandemic as we didn’t know what was going to happen.” Adding, “It was really important to make our products accessible.” Although the online store mostly drives people to their physical location to buy the products, when York Region shifted to lockdown, “the community of Stouffville doubled down and really shopped local.”
It seems to me Stouffville I.D.A. loves being a part of the community. They have become a collection of multiple local pharmacies all wrapped into one. Whether you were a customer at Aiken’s I.D.A, Houston’s Pharmacy, or are currently a regular customer at Stouffville I.D.A, you may know who is behind the counter, and they may know your name.