CALERA – Cecil Cowart founded Cowart Drug Co. in Calera in 1920. One hundred years and three owners later, Kacie White, who grew up in the store, now owns the community pharmacy.
White was hired at age 15 as a cashier, then as the pharmacy technician while pursuing her dreams of being a pharmacist. After finishing her education, White, who always knew Cowart Drugs was a special place, purchased the local store from Theresa Harris, who owned it from 1993 to 2014.
“The merchandise has changed throughout the years. In the early days, they had a lot of old remedies,” said White. “We keep some of the old timey products, if we can still get them. One thing we stand out in is offering products that you can’t get from a big box store.”
While the ownership and product offerings of the well-known Calera business have changed since its opening a century ago, its name, appearance and hometown feel have stayed the same. It also has always operated in the same space, a two-story building at 8320 U.S. 31 that although updated looks much the same as it did when constructed in 1884-1885.
On Sept. 12, White and Harris, who no longer owns the store but still works there, welcomed the community and Steve Cowart, the store’s second owner (1972-1993) and the founder’s son to the pharmacy’s Centennial Celebration. Less than two months later, Steve Cowart died at the age of 94.
Friday, Nov. 13, the Alabama Retail Association presented Cowart Drug Co. Inc. with an Alabama Centennial Retailer award at its Calera Main Street location. The business, which has been an Alabama Retail Association member since 1993, received a bronze plaque to place outside its store and a certificate suitable for display inside.
“We are very excited to reach this milestone,” said White. “Not many businesses these days can say they’ve been in business for such a long period of time.”
With a supportive community and dedicated customers that White and the six other employees know by name, White hopes the pharmacy continues for another 100 years.
“We consider our customers to be part of our extended family,” said White. “We have loyal customers who have supported us for years, and we get new customers daily. If we can get someone in the door, they see the difference in the service they receive from a small-town independent pharmacy.”
Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown said, “For a business to survive the dramatic changes of the past century is a remarkable achievement. It is fitting to celebrate the enduring first-century contributions Cowart Drugs has made to Calera and the surrounding communities.”
More on this retailer:
- Caring and Community Keeps Cowart Drug Co. Going for 100 Years (Profile in November 2020 issue of Alabama Retailer magazine)
Originally posted Nov. 16, 2020
The Alabama Retail Association represents retailers, the largest private employer in the state of Alabama, before the Alabama Legislature and the U.S. Congress. Through sales of food, clothing, furniture, medicine and more, our 4,300 independent merchant and national company members touch almost every aspect of daily living. Since 1943, we’ve worked to promote what’s best for the retail industry in Alabama. Whether voicing the retail view when public policy is made, educating members about issues that impact them, negotiating rates for benefits and services or communicating the retail story, the Alabama Retail Association and its members are better together.