Johnnymae N'Dione moved to the United States in the early 1990s to pursue her education.
Now, the owner of Living Well Pharmacy is hoping to provide her customers with the tools to educate themselves about their medications, as well as health food products, vitamins and all-natural beauty supplies.
"I believe you can be your own best advocate when it comes to your health, and here at my store, you can do the research and get the information you need," said N'Dione, a 36-year-old Smyrna resident who grew up in Senegal before earning her doctor of pharmacy degree from Temple University's School of Pharmacy.
N'Dione opened Living Well Pharmacy last month in a 2,000-square-foot retail space in the Middletown Square Shopping Center off of North Broad Street.
"I really like Middletown and, before we opened, there was no health food store or independent pharmacy here, so it seemed like a perfect fit for me," she said.
At Living Well, customers can get their prescriptions filled, as well as shop for organic snacks and drinks, all-natural cosmetic items, homeopathic remedies and vitamin supplements, among other items.
"Some people think a pharmacy and a health food store that sells vitamin supplements are contradictions, but I don't see it that way," N'Dione said. "Just because you are taking medications doesn't mean you can't also take high-potency vitamins or look to other means to maintain your health."
Living Well Pharmacy also places a strong emphasis on education with a reading area that includes several books on herbal remedies and a computerized kiosk where customers can research the ingredients, side effects, drug interactions and recommended uses for almost any product sold in the store.
"I wouldn't recommend anything to my customers without giving them the information they need to make their own decisions," N'Dione said.
The pharmacy also fills all its prescriptions in recyclable bottles and offers a continuous prescription drug take-back program for all non-controlled medications.
Living Well even offers a private consultation room where customers can talk to N'Dione, have their blood pressure taken, measure their body mass index, check their blood sugar and, in the future, receive flu shots and other vaccinations.
"The health food store part of the business took off right away, and in the future, I'm hoping to expand that, perhaps into the next suite," she said. "Right now, most people around here have to drive to Newark or Dover to find the all-natural, health foods they want, so I'd like to offer more items."
In the meantime, N'Dione said she's working to promote Living Well's pharmacy through direct mailers, advertising and promoting her business to local doctors.
"Because we're independent, it means we have greater flexibility when it comes to interacting with our customers," she said. "For instance, when you need to get a prescription filled but you're short on money, the big chains can't help you, but here, we're willing to offer our customers a line of credit up to $100 so they never have to go without their medicine."
Page 2 of 2 - The pharmacy also offers home delivery in the M.O.T. area.
Living Well Pharmacy is open from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. N'Dione can be reached by calling (302) 378-8228.