A new pharmacy for MP

Madison Park Pharmacy and Wellness Center owner Matt Binder and retail manager Laura Sorensen talk to a customer in the doorway of the new pharmacy in Madison Park, which will replace Pharmaca after the longtime business closed in February.

Madison Park Pharmacy and Wellness Center owner Matt Binder and retail manager Laura Sorensen talk to a customer in the doorway of the new pharmacy in Madison Park, which will replace Pharmaca after the longtime business closed in February.
Julie Matthiessen

When the popular Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy in Madison Park closed its doors in February of 2023, longtime local customers and employees only had a few days’ notice. Needless to say, community members were not happy.

Pharmaca had provided the community with a different option than the average big chain pharmacy, offering popular holistic medicine products and services as well as natural beauty products, licensed naturopaths, herbalists and clean beauty experts. These were in addition to the standard pharmacy offerings of traditional and compounded prescription meds, vaccines and over-the-counter products, which gave customers a unique pharmacy experience right in their own neighborhood.

The pharmacy will open on May 11. 

Pharmaca history

For nearly 20 years, Pharmaca operated 28 stores, offering a combination of wellness products including supplements, vitamins and over-the-counter medications, health services and prescription medications. In July of 2021, digital pharmacy business Medly purchased the 28 Pharmaca locations. Then in February of 2023, Walgreens bought Medly out of bankruptcy, choosing to shut down all 28 Pharmaca locations, while retaining their prescription files and inventory, potentially forcing Pharmaca patients to drive a further distance to fill their prescriptions at the closest Walgreens.

The pharmacy history goes further back than 20 years ago, however. Prior to Pharmaca occupying the space, current landlords Dean and Gigi Altaras remember Gigi’s father running the pharmacy that was there previously. This space has been a pharmacy of one type or another since the 1930s. It was very important to Dean and Gigi to keep a pharmacy in this space, so they played a key role in securing the new pharmacy that will go in there soon.


Keeping it local

Matt Binder, local pharmacist and owner of two nearby independent pharmacies, Ostrom’s Drug and Bob Johnson’s Pharmacy, said he did not initially intend to open a pharmacy in Madison Park.

Within a couple of weeks, however, he and business partner Jeff Harrell were approached by the landlords. Binder said when they visited, multiple Madison Park residents told them how much the neighborhood needed a pharmacy.

Binder is a lifetime resident of nearby neighborhoods in the Seattle area and a UW pharmacy school graduate. He and Harrell knew right away that their values and passion for independent and hyper-local pharmacy services would be a perfect fit for the Madison Park community.

“We learned that this is a neighborhood that takes care of itself, and It’s our belief that every self-sufficient community needs a pharmacy,” Binder said in an email. “As we were able to bring back most of the old team, we could tell that we’ve got something really special coming up.”

Harrell, Cascadia Pharmacy Group CEO, knows how to run a successful pharmacy business while keeping the autonomy and local personality of that pharmacy front and center. CPG is a group of independent pharmacies that serves the Cascadia region of the Pacific Northwest, with 30+ locations in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The focus is elevating integrity and patient-centered care in their communities. Independence is key, and the pharmacies in the group are run autonomously by local pharmacist business owners who know what each of their communities want from their local neighborhood pharmacy.

Binder and Harrell will be opening a new and improved version of Pharmaca, which will have its own new name and brand – Madison Park Pharmacy and Wellness Center – but will mirror much of what local residents loved about Pharmaca, with a few improvements that will make this new pharmacy even more hyper-local.

Binder said he is encouraged by all the positive comments he has received since news of Madison Park Pharmacy and Wellness Center has spread.

Keeping what works; making it better

MPPWC plans to keep offering all of the most popular products that Pharmaca offered, maintaining robust supplement and beauty departments. They will also be offering all of the same pharmacy services, including vaccinations, prescriptions, intramuscular B-12 administration and a team of practitioners to consult with patients – naturopaths, an herbalist and a clean beauty expert. Compounded prescriptions were previously offered via referral, but MPPWC will now have compounds serviced solely by Bob Johnson’s Pharmacy in the Crown Hill/Phinney Ridge neighborhood, another one of Binder and Harrell’s independent pharmacies in the area.

Binder said in an email that Pharmaca brand was centered out of Boulder, Colorado, and many of the local products originated from that area, as well. The MPPWC front-end team is already working to bring in some local Seattle vendors for the store, including a candle vendor who lives in Madison Park. Binder said they hope to feature other revolving local products, as well.

Among the improvements, Binder said the front-end team has more opportunity to do want they want  –  keeping the things residents want, while bringing in merchants in whom they believe.

As well, Binder said the pharmacy will have improved technology, including an app, the ability to text patients, auto-refill services for those who want it, and more.

Binder and Harrell are most pleased that Madison Park Pharmacy and Wellness Center returns most of the Pharmaca staff, which is anchored by longtime Retail Manager Laura Sorensen.

Sorenson said she is thrilled to be continuing on with the legacy of providing customers with the high level of service and quality of products that they are used to.

“I worked for Pharmaca for nearly 12 years – basically my entire adult career,” she said in a press release. “In those 12 years, I discovered a passion for mentoring staff and growing their strengths, creating wonderful displays and anticipating customer trends. I’m a huge believer in going above and beyond with customer service, and I’m excited to continue learning about holistic medicine, natural beauty and pharmacy services by getting to work alongside the amazing practitioners who will be coming back to work at this store.”

Grand opening

 The retail portion of Madison Park Pharmacy and Wellness Center will open in late spring, with the pharmacy opening sometime in the summer. The delay in the pharmacy opening is due to the state and federal licensing and contracting turnaround times that are necessary to open and license a pharmacy.

People can follow MPPWC’s progress and stay up-to-date on openings, new hires, new products and more at the website, www.madisonparkpharmacy.com, as well as on Facebook, www.facebook.com/madisonparkpharmacy), and Nextdoor, https://nextdoor.com/pages/madison-park-pharmacy-wellness-center-seattle-wa/.

Madison Park Times editor Jessica Keller contributed to this report