Bill Preston started Preston’s Pharmacy in 1934. When Mr. Preston retired in 1985, he sold the business to another pharmacist. The second owner kept the store for one year before selling to John Eklund. Mr. Eklund decided to buy Preston’s when it became available because Preston’s had always had a very good reputation both with the public and with physicians. What Mr. Eklund brought to the business was presence. The business was located at a main intersection, but Mr. Eklund felt that many people did not know it was there. Increasing Preston’s visibility was Mr. Eklund’s mission.
At the time Mr. Eklund bought the business, Preston’s was located in the nearby Glebe Lee Shopping Center. Rents were high for the space that the business occupied, and so he looked to move to a new location, especially since a Rite-Aid had opened up in the same shopping center. Still, Preston’s thrived until their lease ended, despite threats and buyout offers from Rite-Aid.
Luckily, a property that used to house a Texaco service station became available just down the street. Mr. Eklund was able to purchase it, and set out to design a distinctive building, one that would have presence. Although the sign was a refashioning of the old Texaco sign, Mr. Eklund was able to redesign the building to his specifications. He wanted the new building to have the look of an old building, with small windows that would save energy, and gooseneck lamps to make it look like it is as old as the business was.
Preston’s has always tried to position ourselves a little differently than the chains. The entire focus of chain pharmacies is selling large volumes of cosmetic products, food products and other things Mr. Eklund, as a pharmacist, was never interested in selling. Preston’s was able make up the difference by opening up a compounding laboratory, a clean room and a gift department. Doctors appreciated Preston’s valued customer service more than the chain pharmacies. The business was willing to incorporate innovative products into their sales model, which helped them for a while, until the health care providers took on the product sales themselves.
Mr. Eklund always felt that the pharmacy as a profession belonged to pharmacists. Therefore, when he became ready to sell the business and retire, he never really wanted to ignore that and sell to a chain. In 2016, Mr. Eklund sold the business to Frank Odeh, who Mr. Eklund knew and felt comfortable selling to, based on his experience as a pharmacist in McLean. Mr. Eklund never had any intention of changing the name from Preston’s Pharmacy when he bought it, and when Mr. Odeh purchased it, he had no intention of changing the name from Preston’s Pharmacy either. Why change the name of the business when its reputation is so good?
5101 Lee Hwy
Arlington, VA 22207
“Preston’s has always had a very good reputation with the public and with the physicians. What Preston’s lacked was physical presence in the community…. Because it didn’t have good street presence, a lot of people didn’t know it was there.“John Eklund, owner
“We have always tried to position ourselves a little bit differently than the chains. I never felt that I could directly compete with the chains, because their entire focus is on high volumes of cosmetic items, food products, things I was not really interested in as a pharmacist in selling. Our focus has always been on health care equipment, so we expanded in those areas.”John Eklund, owner
“Back when I bought Preston’s Pharmacy in 1986, it had been there for 40, 50 years and I had no intention in changing the name from Preston’s Pharmacy. And when Frank bought it, he had no intention in changing it from Preston’s Pharmacy.” “I think we are one of the oldest independent stores in the area.”John Eklund, owner
Full Interview on Arlington’s WERA 96.7