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Dec. 4, 2021

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Bi-Mart pharmacies to close

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Bi-Mart will close 56 remaining pharmacies in its Idaho, Oregon and Washington stores — including the pharmacy in its very first store on Fifth Avenue in Yakima.

The company informed its customers earlier this month that increasing costs and fees have made it unfeasible to continue to operate its pharmacies profitably, and Bi-Mart worked out an agreement with Walgreens to move its pharmacy, patient files and inventory there.

“Right now, the two Yakima pharmacies will remain open until the early part of November,” said Don Leber, vice president of marketing and advertising for Bi-Mart.

“Sometime during the first week of November, the Fifth Avenue and Fruitvale stores will transfer their files to Walgreens, and customers can fill their pharmacy orders at any Walgreens location nationwide,” Leber added.

Bi-Mart, an employee-owned company based in Eugene, Ore., closed pharmacies at 20 of its 76 stores in the Pacific Northwest four years ago, Leber said, as issues with insurance reimbursements, medication distribution fees and other costs of running the pharmacies became too burdensome for the company.

“We did that to hopefully hold off closing the pharmacies at our remaining stores,” he added. “Unfortunately, to protect our employees, we had to make this decision.”

When Bi-Mart closed some pharmacies four years ago, it worked with Walgreens as the Deerfield, Ill.-based retailer took on Bi-Mart’s customers and some of their pharmacy employees. The company has 9,000 locations nationwide.

“We look forward to welcoming Bi-Mart patients to Walgreens pharmacy services, as well as providing employment opportunities to Bi-Mart pharmacy associates in available positions throughout our stores where they can continue to meet the needs of their patients,” Rob Ewing, regional vice president of Walgreens, said in a recent news release.

Customers will receive a letter from Walgreens when their prescriptions transfer over, Leber said. There are two Bi-Mart stores in Vancouver and one in Washougal. An updated list of transfers may be viewed at bimart.com/rxchange#updates

Stores staying open

Bi-Mart President and CEO Rich Truett said while the stores are closing their pharmacies, the 80 locations across the Pacific Northwest will remain open.

“This decision, while difficult, is strategically important as we move to strengthen our solid financial position and expand our plans for future growth in the Northwest,” Truett said. “Bi-Mart’s core business is healthy and strong … we look forward to partnering with Walgreens to transition our pharmacy staff and members as seamlessly as possible.”

Bi-Mart’s history in Yakima goes back more than 60 years, with the Fifth Avenue site, located near Davis High School, the original location.

“Yakima is where we started, so this is a tough, tough thing,” Leber said Wednesday. “I know we’ve had people who’ve been with us since we opened there 60-some years ago.”

According to the company website, “In 1955, we opened our first store in Yakima, Washington, in the garage of one of the original founders. Open only a few hours a week at first, business continued to grow until the store moved to its present location on Fifth Avenue.”

The company opened its second store in Eugene, Ore., in 1962, and shortly thereafter moved the corporate office and distribution center to Eugene. Eugene continues to serve as Bi-Mart’s headquarters.

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