“It hasn’t been an easy thing to stay in business for 100 years, but it has certainly been rewarding,” said William P. “Buddy” Swift III, current owner of Swift Drug Co. Inc., a third-generation, family owned retail drug store in Selma that celebrates its centennial year this month. The Alabama Retail Association honored the store today as an Alabama Centennial Retailer, a retailer with 100 or more years in business in Alabama.
Pharmacist George A. Swift and his bookkeeper brother, William P. “Will” Swift, opened their business at 217 Broad St. in late October 1916. “It has always been a good location,” Buddy said, noting that the store in the heart of downtown Selma is two and half blocks from the Edmund Pettus Bridge and for years had a hotel and theater across the street. “Location is very important in the retail business,” he added.
Another reason customers find Swift Drug to be a convenient location is that the three-story building houses the drug store at ground level and physicians’ offices on the other floors. The building was conceived that way, originally as a two-story structure with a third story added in 1926 to accommodate more doctors.
The second generation to run the store was George “Cap” Swift and pharmacist William P. “Bill” Swift Jr., sons of founder Will Swift and uncle and father to the current owner. “My uncle stayed active in the business until 1970. He left to become the executive director of the Selma/Dallas County Chamber of Commerce. After he retired, he opened the Welcome Center to welcome people to Selma. He did that until he died,” Buddy said.
Buddy joined the family business in 1972 after graduating from the University of Alabama. “I came just to hang around for a little while until I could go to law school, but here I am 44 years later,” he said.
A Swift currently serves as a pharmacist at the store, but Kay Swift is no relation to the owner and founders. She started 39 years ago as a clerk, then decided to commute to pharmacy school while working part time at the store. Over Swift Drug’s first 100 years, “we’ve had thousands of great employees, who have made the business great,” said Buddy.
Swift Drug Co., an Alabama Retail member since 2002, was honored at the 2016 Retail Day luncheon in Birmingham. The business received a bronze plaque to place outside its store and a certificate suitable for display inside.
“For a business to survive the dramatic changes of the past century is a remarkable achievement,” said ARA President Rick Brown. “It is fitting to celebrate the enduring first-century contributions Swift Drug Co. has made to Selma and the surrounding communities.”
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 4,100 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.