It is going to be the end of an era for one of Blue Earth’s downtown businesses.
Dennis Zitnak announced the sale of Zitnak Pharmacy to Blue Earth Drug owners Gina Zierke and Rich Belau, effective Feb. 1.
All of the customer prescription records will be moved to Blue Earth Drug, Zitnak says, and the downtown pharmacy will close.
“This is a very difficult decision,” Zitnak says. “There is no good time to sell and close, but I felt it was time for me to do it.
Zitnak says the number one reason he is selling now is family.
“Every small business owner understands there needs to be a balance between family time and work,” he explains. “I decided it was time to swing the balance more towards family.“
Zitnak says it is getting increasingly more difficult to find relief pharmacists to fill in for him if he wanted a day – or even a week – off.
“Sometimes I really struggled to find one, and that gets tiresome,” he says. “I want to spend more time with my family than I have been able to.“
There are other factors as well, but not necessarily what people think. The economy, he says, has nothing to do with it.
“I need some time off from being a manager,” Zitnak says. “It takes a lot of time and energy to manage a business, and I guess I need a break from it.“
Zitnak has been a local pharmacist for many years. He and his wife, Sue, moved to Blue Earth from the Twin Cities in 1975.
He went to work for Denis Pieschel at the time, in Pieschel Pharmacy.
“It was located where Timmerman’s Tae Kwon Do is now,” he recalls. In 1979 it moved to its present location.
From 1977 to 1987, Pieschel and Zitnak were partners in the store. In 1987 Zitnak bought the business and renamed it Zitnak Pharmacy.
“It has been a great 33 years here,” Zitnak says. “I can’t say enough about the loyal customers we have had. Some people say loyalty is a thing of the past, but not here.“
He also can’t praise his employees enough. Combined, they have over 120 years of service to the local pharmacy.
Teri Wells, Kayla Lawrence, Kirsten Lorenz, Sue Miner, Deb Murphy and Don Lord have all worked many years.
“And Thelma Frerichs recently retired after more than 20 years here,” Zitnak says. “They have all been just wonderful employees.“
Sue Zitnak also works at the business and has for many years.
“We did try and sell the pharmacy as a unit,” Zitnak says. “Twice we thought we had a buyer, but it did not work out.“
That is when talks with Blue Earth Drug started in earnest, he adds.
“I can’t say enough about Gina and Rich and Blue Earth Drug,” Zitnak says. “We have been competitors, but friendly competitors.“
Zitnak says they traded inventory back and forth at times, when needed, and Blue Earth Drug helped him out by taking some of his on-call time at the nursing home.
“They are very professional,” he says. “If I am going to transfer my accounts, I can’t think of anyone better qualified to transfer them to.“
“We have been friends and colleagues since Dennis moved to Blue Earth,” he said. “We plan to continue to provide the same professional service to Zitnak Pharmacy customers as Dennis has in the past. We are already working on ways to make the transition as smooth as possible for his customers.“
As for his future, Zitnak says it is not clear at this time.
“I am going to take some time off, but then I am going back to work somewhere,” he says. “I am too young to retire.“
But he and Sue plan on spending some more time with family, including daughters Abby, Jane and their husbands and daughters, who live all live in Wisconsin, and daughter Natalie, who recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Selling the business was a family decision, Zitnak says, one that had to be made.
“That didn’t make it any easier, because I know what it means to the community to lose a business,” he says.
Zitnak says the Pieschel family owns the building and he hopes they will be able to rent it or sell it so another business could move in.
“We have a strong downtown and I would hope a business will be able to move in here in the near future,” he says.