Peter and Cate Hearle, 40 Years in Business

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They’re well known faces about town and are loved and respected by the community they’ve served well for over the past 40 years, but Peter and Cate Hearle have now retired and sold their pharmacy at Clifton. New owners Steve and Kimberley Duong plan to carry on the caring and professional service that Hearle’s Pharmacy is renowned for …

Hi Peter and Cate. FOCUS has spoken with you about your business, Hearle’s Pharmacy in Clifton Drive, in the past … but please refresh our memories. When and why did you start the business in this location?

I guess the story of how we ended up starting the pharmacy in Port Macquarie began soon after Cate and I married. We were both working at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney – Cate a Registered Nurse in a neurosurgical ward and me as a pharmacist at the very busy St Vincent’s Hospital Pharmacy.

We were holidaying with my parents, who’d moved to Port a few years earlier, and they pointed out to us a shop for rent in the Clifton Shopping Centre and mentioned that it would be an ideal location for a pharmacy.

After returning to Sydney, Cate, after a particularly stressful day at the hospital, said, “How about opening a pharmacy in Port?”

Within a few months, with absolutely no money, a bank overdraft, a second-hand till and typewriter, we were opening our doors as Hearle’s Pharmacy at Clifton.

What have been some of the highlights for you running the pharmacy over the years?

Business was hardly booming in the early days and to make matters worse, Cate was pregnant and suffering badly with nausea – and, in the later stages of pregnancy, pre-eclampsia. 

However, throughout all this our kind and loyal customers were a constant source of comfort, and many knitted and crocheted presents accompanied the birth of our son, Michael.

After that first year, we employed Lindy Dick (now Mackinnon) as a 15 year old, and she still remains as a wonderful asset to the business to this day. 

All our other staff members have been fantastic as well, loyal and long-serving – three for well over 20 years and the rest for ten or so years! We also employed many young people after school and on Saturdays, and they have gone on to become doctors, pharmacists, teachers, academics etc. 

The latest young one, Lindy’s daughter Caitlin, is doing a degree in graphic design. I like to think that in some way we have encouraged these fantastic young people to make a success of their lives.

In my time at the pharmacy, we have intervened to help and in some cases saved the lives of people by judicious referrals to GPs and by identifying dangerous drug addictions or adverse side effects.

Pharmacists now serve an important health function to pick up problems in people who are reluctant to visit doctors!

After 40 years running your business, you’re now starting the next phase of your life! What will happen to Hearle’s Pharmacy now you’re retiring? 

Now that I’ve retired, the business has been bought by a Sydney pharmacist, Steve Duong and his wife, Kimberley. They have over 15 years of experience running pharmacies, both in regional and city locations, including in Lismore and Mackay. 

Their intent is to maintain the friendly, professional service that has been a feature of the pharmacy over the past 40 years, including Webster Packs, home medication reviews, blood pressure checking and all pensioner, D.V.A and NHS prescription dispensing.

They will continue running Hearle’s Pharmacy with its existing staff as a caring and valuable community pharmacy.

What will you miss most about the pharmacy?

The two things I’ll miss most are my fabulous staff and also our wonderful customers!

However, as I say to everyone, “We’re not going anywhere, so we’ll see you around town”.

What would you like to say to your customers/staff upon your retirement?

Just a big thank you from the bottom of our hearts – it’s been a great 40 years, and we wouldn’t have done it without our hugely loyal customer base and fantastic staff!

Given your successful career in the industry, what’s some advice you’d like to give to our future, aspiring pharmacists?

For aspiring pharmacists I would say concentrate on the profession side of pharmacy and use your clinical skills to assist the patients. Don’t just become retailers and obsessed by profits. If you do the professional side of the business well, you will make your business successful!

And, don’t forget there are other strands of pharmacy in hospitals and pharmaceutical companies that can be equally rewarding.

What are your future plans?

Now that we’ve sold the business, Cate will continue working at St Joseph’s Primary School in her chaplaincy role, and I intend spending my time with grandchildren, golfing, fishing and travelling.

Also, you never know – there could be a book in me, as I can’t let my father, Tom Hearle of Still Air at Dawn fame and my son Michael of the Winter series be the only literary geniuses in the family ha ha!

Thanks Peter.

Interview: Jo Robinson.

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