BEHIND THE BIZ // A New Look For Highlands Health Destination, Capital Chemist Bowral
A Fresh, New Look With The Same, Fab Service For Capital Chemist Bowral.
It’s one of the oldest pharmacies in the Southern Highlands, having originally been established as Bowral Pharmacy in 1885 – yep! 1885 - and the traditional shop front is one of the most recognisable on Bong Bong Street.
It was the history of the store and also the region that attracted pharmacist Catherine Yee and her business partner, Dickson Yan to the Highlands in the first place when they bought the pharmacy in 2012 and established it as Capital Chemist Bowral.
But it’s Catherine’s holistic approach to health management and the whole team’s laser-focused commitment to the wellbeing of their patients that has inspired a fab new refurbishment of the pharmacy.
We spoke to Catherine to find out more about Capital Chemist Bowral’s plans to build on all they’ve achieved so far, and become an innovative health destination for Highlanders.
1 // Let’s start with you first, Catherine. Did you always want to be a pharmacist?
I grew up in Orange and just before I finished high school, Charles Sturt University introduced the Bachelor of Pharmacy degree to be taught at their Orange campus. I was working as a pharmacy assistant while I was at high school and was considering studying radiography or something in health science. My boss at the time, Kate, suggested studying to become a pharmacist. I told her I wasn’t smart enough! But she encouraged me to apply and I got in!
Kate is a brilliant pharmacist and has been a huge influence on my career. She took the role she played in every patient’s overall health very seriously and has inspired me to do the same.
2 // So, how did buying a business at the age of 24 come about?
I moved to Wollongong and was working for a pharmacy there that wasn’t the right fit for me – it seemed selling products had become more important than a patient’s health, so I started to look for an opportunity where I could create a space where patients could feel comfortable and confident that the pharmacist was with them on their health journey.
I had always liked the Capital Chemist Group’s approach to patient care so got in touch with them. An opportunity to buy the Bowral pharmacy came up. I was only 24 so didn’t feel super-confident running a business as a newbie, so Capital Chemist teamed me up with Dickson who had worked for the Capital Chemist Group in Canberra before moving to Sydney to run Blake's Pharmacy in Potts Point for several years.
And here we both are, 8 years later with a team of 15 – made up of four pharmacists, our wonderful Retail Manager, Emily, and a team of pharmacy assistants.
3 // So, what sparked you guys to give the Capital Chemist Bowral store this fab new facelift?
Traditionally, the pharmacist would be out the back, behind the counter dispensing medicines and prescriptions, but that’s just not how we interact these days.
Pharmaceutical services have come a long way and now we offer so much more than just filling prescriptions. We do vaccinations, blood pressure checks, offer private consultations to discuss sensitive matters with our patients, provide weight loss guidance and advice, and so much more.
Our pharmacists spend a lot of time out on the floor chatting to patients, interacting with them, building relationships, and really getting to understand how we can help them right now and into the future.
So, we needed a space to do that and do that well.
4 // How does the new space allow you to do that?
The store hasn’t had any renovations or updates for nearly 30 years, so was set up to suit the more traditional approach to pharmacy. We redesigned the layout to give us a better workflow and the patients a better experience.
It wasn’t easy working it all out – there were 26 versions of the plans in the planning stage! And we’ve kept the traditional shop front because it’s so well-known in the area – but now the interior feels spacious and fresh.
Our patients are important to us, but so is our team. These changes were also about providing them with an awesome work environment. What they do and how they do it is so valuable to us and our patients. A positive and professional work environment has a positive impact on their work, their life and our patient’s lives.
And it just looks brighter and fresher now! It’s not cramped anymore, the products on the shelves look neater and are easier to find. And there’s space for everyone and everything - our customers, our products, and our pharmacists!
5 // What additional services are you now offering?
We’ve added a second private consultation room – this is fantastic for when we get busy with flu vaccinations, for example. We can have more consults with more customers.
We’re also adding a range of sleep apnoea products and advice to our services. We never had the space to do that before but now we do.
6 // The way you help the community extends beyond the front doors of the store too, don’t they?
The health and wellness of all Highlanders is important to us and supporting organisations that support that is definitely a focus for us.
During COVID, we’ve donated face masks and hand sanitiser to community groups to make sure they can still offer their amazing services safely. We donated to The Man Walk Bowral (got them all kitted out) and the Bowral Uniting Pantry who provide free food and household items to locals. We’ve also donated products to many local schools and businesses – it’s just so important to keep everyone safe and healthy.
When COVID started, we wanted to make sure our patients were supported at home, so we’ve been very active with sharing reputable and educational health advice and information on our Facebook page, and our home delivery service increased. We went from 5 or so deliveries a day up to 30! Our connection to our customers and the community doesn’t stop at the front door, that’s for sure.
7 // What can Highlanders expect when they visit Capital Chemist Bowral?
I see our role in the local health community as a really good triage. A place for people to come for health advice, treatment and support. We have great relationships with so many local GP’s – we’d never replace their role – in fact, we work really well with the GP’s. If someone comes into the pharmacy and we know they need to see a GP asap, we often call and make an urgent appointment with their GP on their behalf, and give their doctor a heads-up about what we’re seeing.
That’s the wonderful thing about living and working in a rural area. We all know each other, there’s a lot of respect between local health professionals, and we work together to benefit the patient.
We’re proud of what our customers experience when they step inside Capital Chemist Bowral.
We’re proud of the professionalism of our team, and how focused they are on improving every person’s daily health and wellbeing.
Capital Chemist Bowral is dedicated to improving each persons health and wellbeing by providing quality pharmaceutical and health services to the Southern Highlands community. Open 7 days a week. Find out more here, or pop in to say hello to the friendly team on Bong Bong Street.
This blog features friends and advertisers of The Fold Southern Highlands and is fully endorsed by The Fold Southern Highlands. We strongly believe in the businesses and all the information we share with you on The Fold and we're excited to share the amazing stories and adventures of our local businesses. We want to say a BIG thank you to you for supporting our sponsors who help make The Fold possible.