Cottrell celebrates ‘golden’ years in pharmacy
Published 10:44 pm Tuesday, June 7, 2022
Before he was even old enough to drive, Danny Cottrell has had his hands in the pharmacy business.
This week, Cottrell celebrates 50 years of work providing care and quality work for patients around Brewton and beyond.
Cottrell’s love of all things pharmacy didn’t come to him as a child. Growing up, Cottrell said he had dreams of another profession.
“I had always thought I wanted to be a coach,” Cottrell said. “But in the eighth grade, I had a badly broken leg. I realized that the profession of pharmacist would be one that I could pull up a chair and do. I still wanted to be a coach, but knew somewhere down the line that I woudl have issues from that break. I spent 14 weeks in a cast. Even now, I notice it some days.”
Although coaching would have been a pleasure for the pharmacist, his reach into many communities and the healthcare of countless patients, is one that many people have benefited from throughout the years.
Tom Henderson began working for Cottrell in 1992 and said his generosity has always been a big part of who he is.
“He is very generous,” Henderson said. “When it comes to things in the community, he’s always been willing to give to churches and civic organizations. He is generous with his time and his resources to help people.”
Henderson, who was once a partner in the business with Cottrell, said he was more than a partner and co-worker.
“He has always been willing to work with people and schedules,” Henderson said. “When my children were young, he would work with me. Because of that, I never missed any game they played.”
Henderson also said Cottrell was known to help his customers beyond what was required.
“He has worked with so many people,” Henderson said. “Allowing them to work out a way to get what they needed. He is very generous.”
Cottrell’s caring for patients was his own after he became the owner of the pharmacy. After starting at the pharmacy when he was 15, he continued to work, even through college, on weekends until he graduated from Auburn University in 1979 with a degree in pharmacy.
“Henry Lowery was managing the pharmacy then,” Cottrell said. “He was ready to go, but worked extra to wait for me to get back. A couple of years after I graduated, he moved on to Colorado. Then, all of a sudden, I’m 24 years old and managing the store. It was a good enough store at the time that it practically ran itself with two pharmacists.”
Cottrell said the thought of actually being the owner of the business wasn’t one that he had considered.
“Back then, the pharmacy was owned by Randolph McDowell with the doctors and Medical Center group owning the business,” Cottrell said. “In April of 1984, he came in a flopped a contract down to sell the pharmacy to me with 100 percent financing. Back in those days, folks just didn’t go into debt like that. I didn’t even have a credit card. The next week, we signed that contract and the business was mine.”
Being the owner of lucrative and growing business was a blessing for Cottrell as a pharmacist in his 20s.
“I’ve never regretted it,” Cottrell said. “A year later we bought Mormon’s Drugs and moved that business in with ours.”
That purchase of a second pharmacy would be the first for Cottrell and his family.
“Today, we own the Medical Center Pharmacy, Cottrell’s Hometown Pharmacy and Flomaton Pharmacy as sole owners,” Cottrell said. “I am involved in a partnership with some other people and have six stores in Mobile, five in southeast Alabama including one in Atmore and six in the Florida panhandle.”
With business interests across the region, Cottrell said he is lucky and blessed to be able to spend his life right here at home.
“My family has had the opportunity to stay here in Brewton with our parents,” Cottrell said. “The stores have been successful enough that we’ve been able to expand and that has enabled us to give back to the community. Brewton has been tremendous to us. It’s just hard to believe it’s been 50 years and has been this smooth.”
Cottrell’s son Tim has grown up around the business and is, once again, working alongside his father.
“It’s always been there and I’ve always been able to get what I needed,” Tim said. “The store has been a blessing to our family and has been able to bless a lot of other people, too.”
Tim didn’t always have a desire to follow in his father’s footsteps, but timing has turned out to be a blessing.
“I worked there as a teen during the summers and learned a lot about what I wanted for my future,” Tim said. “I did get out of the pharmacy for a while, but now I work full-time. The timing was just right. When I cam back I had some ideas on things I could help with and it turned out that he really had most of it figured out. My plan is to just try and help out to keep things going.”
Although Cottrell remembers his time in the business as smooth, there have certainly been some rough spots in the economy along the way.
In March 2009, Cottrell saw some of his employees panicking about the downturn in the economy. At that time, the federal government was working on providing stimulus money to help an economic boost. But, Cottrell had a plan for folks locally — a plan that would gain national attention.
“That was some of the employees were panicking a little thinking we may have to lay people off,” Cottrell said. “We were just doing something trying to make sure they knew we were going to get through it. We came up with a way to give them a bonus and cae up with a way to turn it into something even better.”
When Cottrell passed out those now-famous $2 bills, he instructed his employees to give 15 percent to charity and spend the remaining money with local merchants, who were also seeing some slowdown in business. Word of his $16,000 stimulus plan for employees made it’s way to national media outlets and all attention turned to the local pharmacist for a while.
“That recognition was very sobering because I was getting that attention,” Cottrell said. “In the scheme of things, i hadn’t done that much.”
That “not much” put Cottrell in the company of some well-known humanitarians including Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger and Michael J. Fox among others.
Even though that recognition in 2009 was well-deserved, it wouldn’t be the last time Cottrell was honored for his compassion, business sense and incredible work ethic.
Cottrell was honored in 2009 by receiving the Willard Simmons Independent Pharmacist of the Year. Other accolades bestowed on Cottrell include the 1992 Wayne Staggs Distinguished Service Award, 1996 Bowl of Hygeia, 2004 King Kourtesy Award and the 2010 APAA Distinguished Alumnus Award. In 2001 he was presented with the inaugural Lester White Good Government Award, named for being good friend and colleague. Cottrell was named the 2005 Brewton Citizen of the Year and the 2009 NCPA Pharmacist of the Year following his $16,000 stimulus program. During the COVID pandemic, Cottrell repeated his stimulus program for the local community.
Although Cottrell has his main focus on working with members of the communities he serves, his reach is far wider than Brewton.
When Cottrell joined that Alabama Pharmacists Association in 1985 he soon found himself on the board in various leadership roles. He was installed as APA President in 1993 and continues to serve on the APA PAC Board today. He has also supported the National Community Pharmacists Association through service on their Legislative Committee for 13 years and their PAC Committee for 11 years. He’s been president and a board member for Associated Pharmacies for 15 years. In addition, he has served terms on the Alabama Medicaid Advisory Committee, Blue Cross/Blue Shield Pharmacy Advisory Committee, Alabama Worker’s Compensation Advisory Committee, and the Alabama Long Term Care Task Force. He has been called the father of the Medicaid Provider Tax and he remembers crafting the plan on a cocktail napkin in the hallway at an APA Mid-Winter Conference in the early nineties. The tax, still in effect today, provides millions in funding for the state each year and ensured a fair dispensing fee was paid to pharmacies in return. Cottrell has been an advocate for pharmacy with whoever is sitting in the Medicaid Commissioner’s office through the decades. He’s had more impact on Alabama politics than most elected officials and has been instrumental in the support of pharmacy friendly candidates at every level.
Cottrell logged 50 years in the pharmacy business with the Medical Center Pharmacy on June 6. The business has grown through the years following the Brewton Medical Center to its current home. Plans are in the works for a new pharmacy that will be detached from the medical center to offer a wide range of services for the customers served by the family. No set opening date has been announced for that facility.