“Mom & Pop” Accessibility

Photo of a grey and red pharmacy building that looks like a residential house, with a street-level entrance

Ever since I can remember, growing up in the small city where I live, my family has used the same pharmacy. It’s a small, independent, “mom & pop” pharmacy located in a mostly residential neighborhood, rather than in the downtown business district, or the fast food / strip mall area just outside the city limits.

I clearly remember being an eight year old kid, going to Condo Pharmacy with my Mom and Dad, and climbing up the 2 or 3 steps to get into this rather cramp, jam-packed little business that occupied basically a converted house. I don’t remember the inaccessibility being perceived as a problem, but I do remember that going up those steps was a rather difficult thing that we might remark on … not as an injustice really, but more of a little challenge for a somewhat physically disabled kid like myself. Looking back, I’m sure Condo’s had lots of regular customers who found the steps a hassle. I mean, in addition to prescriptions and over-the-counter meds, they did a medium amount of business in home medical supplies … grab bars, raised toilet seats, walkers and the like. For a business like that to be inaccessible didn't make much sense, even in the 1970s and '80s.

At some point in the 1990s ... definitely after the ADA passed in 1990 ... Condo’s moved. Actually they built a new building right next door. The new place was bigger, roomier, with a small parking lot adjacent, no steps to get in, and automatic doors. It's still there, and most people around here still think of the place as Condo’s “new place.” The photo above is the "new place."

Condo's is still my pharmacy. Part of the reason is that it’s easier to get to now than even the chain pharmacies outside the city … like Wall-Mart, Rite Aide, and Kinneys. They are also fully accessible, but are a bit of a hassle and a bother anyway because of relative distance, traffic, and overall busyness.

I’m only writing about this because in a way, this is how accessibility is supposed to work for small businesses. It’s how we argue that it’s worth it for them to improve accessibility. I don’t know how much of Condo’s motivation for moving and building was accessibility, but I suspect it played a role. And I don’t know how the business is doing compared to the big chain pharmacies, but all evidence suggests they’re doing fine. I mean, they’re still here, and for small, local businesses that’s an accomplishment all by itself.

I think their improved accessibility must have played some role in their continued survival, if not success. There’s maybe a lesson there somewhere.