Yesterday I was going into the Shelter Island Heights Pharmacy for more of those little pills that seem to be keeping me alive. I thought about how the pharmacy was when I first came to the Island and how it is now.
The current store had three owners — Greg Ofrias, Suzanne Fujita and Suzanne’s dad Donald Scott, who passed away six years ago — but I knew one of the other two would always be there to greet me. I can’t remember a day that one of them was not in the store.
I’ve always believed that the key to success for a Shelter Island business is to have the owners involved and working alongside their employees. Suzanne and Greg know how to do that.
Diane Dennis has been working at the pharmacy since Suzanne and Greg took it over 30 years ago and they’ll tell you that Ginny Surozenski has been a godsend. At the soda fountain, Bennett, Tracy and Sal always serve some of the best meals on the Island and at the right price.
Greg told me that in the beginning, they had pressure from experts that they should get rid of the fountain. After much thought — lucky for us — they decided the fountain was a large part of who they are as a family store. Today, the food service is successful and has become a major part of their business.
The owner’s business card spells out their philosophy: “Small enough to know you. Large enough to serve you.”
I take that serving me part seriously since I even bring my watches in to Greg to fix.
As well as we think we know them, Greg and Suzanne are private people. I asked an interesting question at a Shelter Island trivia night last year: What’s Greg’s last name?
Only one person in a room full of Islanders knew the answer.
He is family first, hard work second and fishing third. He grew up in Southold and married Paulette Scott, who is Suzanne’s sister. Another hard worker, Paulette helps with our pharmacy on occasion, but she runs their sister pharmacy in Southold.
Paulette and Greg have two boys, Scott and Patrick. I used to get a kick out of Greg watching the high school basketball games when Southold would play Shelter Island.
Since Greg served Island kids at the fountain every day, he loved our kids, but it was a tough position since his boys played for Southold.
If you were looking for Greg at a game, you could always find him sitting in the stands right on the line between the two teams and not rooting for either one.
Suzanne also grew up in Southold. She married a Shelter Island boy, David Fujita. The two of them raised four children, William, Kenji, Kimiko and Aiko. Although no one loves golf more than David, his wife can’t seem to find the time for that sport. Suzanne finds her pleasure by reading a good book. She does everything out of the spotlight.
I’ve spent a lot of time on my side of the counter, listening to her as she patiently explains prescriptions. Many times, she calls the doctor when she sees things that don’t usually go together. That extra touch always makes me feel comfortable.
I’m one of the people who was on the Island before Suzanne and Greg took over. The Greenport Pharmacy had a regular delivery route on the Island and you could always find Islanders over there in the store. It was not only inconvenient, but I always felt stress not supporting a local business.
Now, I enjoy a great feeling when I walk into my pharmacy. I love being treated by people that smile and really care about me. I have never checked prices because I have confidence I’m getting what the doctor ordered.
Greg and Suzanne, you are the hub of this Island, whether we need food, merchandise, medical supplies or simply a watch repaired. You are my pharmacy and our pharmacy.