September 4, 2015

Around the Square: Rainbow Pharmacy

Photo of exterior Rainbow Pharmacy building.

Most people see pharmacies as a place for the sick to fill prescriptions, or for the scraped and bruised to buy Band-Aids and ointments. Pharmacist Kert Shuster believes there’s much more to a drugstore than that.

The owner of two Rainbow Pharmacies on Maui, Shuster is bringing the first full-service pharmacy to Lanai. This is his first business on the island, but Shuster’s values align with the community’s.

He believes in an “old-school” style of pharmacy centered on the neighborhood drugstore, where kids might stop by after school for a snack and drink, and where the pharmacist knows each customer by name.

“My focus has always been on the care and well-being of the people I serve,” he said. “Most people don’t think of pharmacy as a people profession, but at Rainbow Pharmacy I’m all about talking story and creating a sense of community.”

One-Stop Shop for Medication and More

In fact, Shuster’s new pharmacy, opened Oct. 1 on Dole Square, turning it into a destination spot that serves locals and visitors alike. Along with prescription medications, over-the-counter treatments, sunscreen and vitamins, the pharmacy will offer an unlikely treat: shave ice.

“We’ve been doing our research and visiting all the top shave ice places in the islands. We want to make our own flavors and create something healthy and delicious to bring people in, really make this place a gathering spot,” said Shuster.

But of course, the main point of the pharmacy will be to provide much-needed health services.

For far too long, residents haven’t had immediate access to the medications that keep them healthy. To remedy that, Rainbow Pharmacy will stock medications commonly prescribed by doctors and dentists. It will even be able to dispense medications prescribed by veterinarians, for your furry friend.

“The pharmacy will be a big step for Lanai,” said Dr. John Janikowski, a physician at Straub Lanai Family Health Center. “Here at Straub, we’re limited to dispensing medication only to our own patients after we’ve seen them. The pharmacy will be able to fill prescriptions from off-island doctors and specialists that community members and hotel guests see. It’s a huge win for Lanai.”

As a pharmacist, Shuster is also well qualified to consult with patients concerned about drug interactions, proper use and dosage, and side effects.

“If you have a question about your prescription, just ask,” he said. “One of the advantages of having a pharmacist on Lanai means we can help address some of the medication questions that you might normally wait to ask your physician.”

Serving the Community, Starting from Scratch

Lanai has been well cared for by Molokai Drugs and the drugstore’s pharmacist, Kelly Go, over the years. However, Go believes that having on-island access to a pharmacy is beneficial.

“We are delighted that Rainbow Pharmacy is opening up on Lanai. Being able to walk down the street to pick up your prescription without any added wait time because it’s coming from another island is what the Lanai community deserves,” said Go.

Being the first storefront pharmacy on the island meant Shuster had to bring in everything, from computer systems to security measures. The process, which took more than two years to complete, hasn’t always been easy. Shuster, who started his first location in Kihei five years ago from scratch, wasn’t deterred.

“It’s really an opportunity to figure out what the community needs and a way to provide it for them,” he said.

Rainbow Pharmacy’s recent expansion to Lahaina, just a few minutes away from the Expeditions dock, is more than a product of the company’s growth — to Shuster, it was a strategic decision. The new Lahaina location will help to support Lanai’s pharmacy, with the ability to deliver urgently needed medications just a ferry ride away.

“We’re so excited to finally open our doors,” said Shuster. “It’s been a long time coming, but we feel very blessed to be given the opportunity to be here.”

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