October 21, 2019
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A pharmacist from Nigeria has opened his second drug store Down East

Bill Trotter | BDN
Bill Trotter | BDN
Machias Family Pharmacy owner Ben Okafor stands next to product shelving in the Route 1 business on Aug. 21, 2019. It is the second pharmacy that Okafor, who hails from Nigeria, has opened in Washington County in the past five years.

Five years after opening a pharmacy in Eastport, where at the time there was no place where residents could buy prescribed medications, a Bangor man has opened a second pharmacy, this one in Machias.

Machias Family Pharmacy, on Route 1 next to the intersection of Hadley Lake and Scotts Hill roads, opened quietly a few months ago. The business’ opening returns an independently owned pharmacy to a community that has lacked one since 2017.

Ben Okafor, the pharmacies’ owner, is from Nigeria but moved to the United States in 2007 after he was hired by Rite Aid to work in Bangor at a time when the company had difficulty finding qualified candidates for its pharmacist positions. He had worked for a pharmacy in London for six years prior to moving to Maine.

In 2014, after noticing that his employer was buying out and closing locally owned pharmacies in Washington County, he decided to strike out on his own. Okafor’s Eastport Family Pharmacy opened for business later that year.

Okafor said that he had been looking to expand to Machias ever since he learned that Machias Friendly Pharmacy — which was located on the opposite side of Hadley Lake Road from where his new pharmacy is located — was closing down. That pharmacy, which closed in 2017, was independently owned and operated, like Okafor’s pharmacy in Eastport, and he felt he could capture a significant portion of its business after it shut its doors.

“I was friends with them,” Okafor said of the other pharmacy’s owners, “and I knew their customer base. A lot of those customers are coming [to the new pharmacy].”

By opening close to where Machias Friendly Pharmacy was located, he said, he is closer to East Machias and Lubec than his competitors — in this case, Walgreens and Hannaford — and, like his Eastport pharmacy, he offers free delivery within a certain radius. In Machias, that means the pharmacy will deliver medications to customers between Jonesport and Lubec.

He also accepts insurance payments for medical equipment such as walkers and canes, he said, whereas the bigger companies do not.

Okafor still officially lives in Bangor, where his wife and three young children live full time, but during the week splits his time between Eastport and Machias, returning home Friday evenings and commuting back to work Monday mornings.

Since opening the Machias pharmacy, he has hired a full-time pharmacist to work in Eastport to help fill in when he is in Machias. He has three other full-time employees in Eastport and, not including himself, three more full-time employees and one part-time employee in Machias, for a grand total of eight employees.

A “grand opening” for Machias Family Pharmacy, which will include a cookout and prizes, is scheduled next month, from noon to 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11.

 



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