Leslie’s to close permanently at end of year

Announcement comes days after Vineyard Haven staple reopened to the public.

Leslie's has gotten a reprieve and will stay open into 2021.

Leslie’s Pharmacy, which reopened its doors to the public earlier this week, has decided to close its business for good at the end of the year.

In a Facebook post, David Holmberg, the pharmacy’s manager, wrote that his father, Warren Holmberg, decided to permanently close Leslie’s doors for good at the end of the day on Dec. 31.

“I really want to thank our extremely loyal customers. You have supported my family and I for the past 17 years that we have owned the business. Your support is only exceeded by your generosity toward us,” the statement from Warren Holmberg read. “I would also like to thank my fantastic family and staff (who are considered family to us). Their efforts have been beyond incredible, and certainly undeserving of this ending.”

In an email to The Times Friday, Holmberg wrote that the decision to close the pharmacy was due to financial struggles that were not helped by the pandemic.

“The financial struggle of an independent pharmacy is beyond what most people believe,” Holmberg wrote in part. “It has been years of constantly battling for fair pricing. We just can’t financially take it anymore. My father tried selling the business about a year ago, but was not successful. The pandemic itself is not the reason for our closing; it definitely didn’t help in any way. It was the final straw.”

Holmberg wrote the high costs come from insurance companies and the pharmacy benefit managers (PBM), the intermediaries between the pharmacy and insurance companies. Insurance companies hire the PBM, who then handle formularies, copays, and other pharmacy benefits.

PBM also determine pharmacy reimbursements, which are frequently less than the product costs the store, according to Holmberg.

“They have prices set very low, based on acquisition costs of stores with more buying power. I spend most of my day searching my four distributors to find the drug at the lowest cost possible. The patient usually has no idea, and just assumes they pay their copay and the insurance covers the rest. That’s the dream model, but they are in it to make money,” Holmberg wrote.

Holmberg said that his family’s next step is yet to be determined, but that the pharmacy is dedicated to supporting its customers until its last day.

“The only thing I know is that we will be there to help and provide for our customers and the Island as a whole until the last day. You can count on us for that!” Holmberg wrote.

Customers reacted with sadness at the news on Facebook. “I am speechless and heartbroken,” Melissa Schilling Gold wrote. “Your family embodies the heart of what the Vineyard represents. I cannot thank you all enough for the years of professional service, free advice, and the occasional joke.”

Others responded by saying they are heartbroken by the decision. “My heart breaks, you have been a huge part of the community. You’ve been helpful, kind, compassionate, and understanding,” Beth Ann Serusa wrote.

After reopening, the pharmacy is allowing a maximum of 10 customers at a time, and is asking people to keep entries to one household member at a time. Those waiting for a prescription and not shopping are asked to wait outside. Face masks or coverings are required. The pharmacy is still offering curbside service.

“As you imagine, I am just devastated as you are,” David Holmberg wrote in the Facebook post. “I stand by my father in his decisions with the store.”