After 108 years, the Dassel drug store is closing
By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, MN For more than a century, Peterson Pharmacy has served the people of Dassel, but as a result of a changing industry, longtime proprietor Mike Sylvester has chosen to close the doors.
“It’s been a privilege to serve the community for so many years,” said Sylvester.
Though the community has been very supportive throughout his 37 years, Sylvester said, “It’s time to move on, in spite of the hardships it may cause.”
The last day Peterson Pharmacy will fill prescriptions will be Thursday, Feb. 21.
After that, files will be transferred to Keaveny Drug in Cokato.
The store will then be closed for two weeks, and reopen Monday, March 18 for the liquidation of inventory.
Through the years, not only have the insurance companies pushed customers to go to big-box stores instead of small-town pharmacies, but they are also pushing businesses to require employees to receive prescription drugs through the mail, Sylvester explained. This, in turn, has had a negative effect on small-town pharmacies.
Insurance reimbursements have also gone down, Sylvester said, adding that he no longer has the energy to fight with insurance companies over the phone to get better prices and coverage for customers.
“It’s time for a young person to do that,” he commented.
Sylvester was hoping to sell the business, but couldn’t find an interested party. He will either sell the building, which he owns, or rent out the space.
Though he did try to sell the pharmacy, there weren’t any takers. Kelly Keaveny, owner of Keaveny Drug, said it just didn’t make economical sense to buy the Dassel location.
Keaveny congratulated Sylvester on his 37 successful years in Dassel.
As far as serving the needs of the customers in Dassel, Keaveny is ready to do that.
For those who aren’t able to drive to Cokato to have a prescription filled, Keaveny is offering delivery Monday through Friday at customers’ requests.
Bill Ward, administrator of Augustana Lakeside Health Care Center in Dassel, said Sylvester had informed him earlier that the pharmacy would be closing. With this news, the care center’s pharmacy needs were moved to Keaveny Drug, which has been delivering daily. The assisted living facility has been with Keaveny for several years, and was unaffected, Ward noted.
History of Peterson Pharmacy in Dassel
Peterson Pharmacy first opened in 1905, with owner Gust (GO) Peterson. It was located on Atlantic Avenue, next to the pool hall, or what is now Thirsty’s Tavern.
Gust’s brothers, Dr. Alfred C. Peterson and Dr. George E. Peterson worked in the back of the pharmacy as physicians, according to information provided by the Dassel Area Historical Society.
Equipment and drugs used in the early pharmacy are on display at the Dassel History Center, giving a glimpse of Gust’s work.
Jars filled with an assortment of commonly used crude drugs are also on display. Such drugs included aloe, cinnamon, and white oak bark. White oak bark would be prescribed for digestive problems, skin irritations and also to treat depression.
Also on display is a label cabinet with an assortment of pharmaceutical labels, a prescription scale to determine doses, and a mortar and pestle to grind the medicine into powder for pills.
Gust and his wife, Alice, had three children, Carl, Ralph, and Eleanor. “As young kids, we would run the pharmacy at night,” Ralph said, minus prescriptions. Both Ralph and Carl went on to be pharmacists.
After working as a pharmacist for four years in Minneapolis, the Japanese declared war on the US and Ralph and a fellow classmate enlisted in the Navy.
When the war ended, Ralph returned to Dassel to take over the family business, since his father died while Ralph was in the service.
Ralph ran the drug store, which included a soda fountain where he served cherry Cokes and double-scoop ice cream for a nickel.
In 1959, Ralph moved the drug store and soda fountain to a new building on Fourth Street, its current location.
In 1975, Ralph retired, placing the business in the hands of Mike (Myron) Sylvester and wife Bev. Mike is a native of Hutchinson and a graduate of North Dakota State University.
When asked why he continued to keep the Peterson name, Sylvester joked that his last name for a pharmacy probably wouldn’t go over very well in a predominately Scandinavian community. Dassel Drug didn’t seem to have a good ring to it, either, he commented.