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Way Street Pharmacy redefines the pharmacy experience

by Andrew Seale   |   November 09, 2023   |   Share this:  

As a pharmacist, Alan Tonna built his career working for major pharmacy chains. However, a revelation during the pandemic shifted his mindset surrounding what a pharmacy could be.

“A year into COVID, I realized that every shift I was working, I was doing four to six new antidepressant prescriptions – new ones not refills,” he says. “And that’s an alarm bell… that's the hidden pandemic.”

He decided then and there that if he ever opened his own, he’d do it differently. A year later, he got the opportunity to open Way Street Pharmacy in Brooklin, drawing inspiration from a Japanese restaurant he’d heard about that had created a low sensory stimulation environment.

“From the minute you walk into the minute you walk out, everything is designed to bring the stress level down,” explains Tonna. The pharmacy has accent lighting, wood shelving, and soothing music and visuals. “You don't see a single bottle of medication, they’re all hidden,” says Tonna. “It’s little things (like that), and people just love it.”

Tonna says he has a personal connection to low sensory stimulation environments. His son has autism spectrum disorder and, during his childhood school years, had used a similar environment to find calm. Today Tonna’s son works for Way Street Pharmacy.

Since opening in February 2022, the business has become a staple of the community. But Tonna knows he still has to compete with the major pharmacy chains.

To do that, he realized he needed a more solid digital presence.

“For certain things, you have to compete with the big players,” says Tonna. “​​I needed to develop a website where people can go on and order the prescriptions or book a flu shot… all that stuff.”

He heard about Digital Main Street, a program combining grants and one-to-one support from the Province of Ontario alongside partners to help main street businesses strengthen their online capabilities and plan for the digital future. He saw the $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant and training as an opportunity to invest in the business’s digital presence.

Working with the Digital Service Squad, Tonna was able to fine-tune his social strategy. “(They gave) us ideas on how to manage it,” says Tonna. “And my son has a degree in media studies, so he's doing that for me.”

The majority of the funding was pointed at the website.

“The biggest thing we did with the funds was to develop (the website) to be interactive with the patient,” he says. “So they can order prescriptions, they can even transfer from another store.”

He sees it as an opportunity to bring more people in the door and show them that there’s a different way to have a pharmacy, a space that aligns with the customer's wellness journey. Investing in his digital presence helps him achieve that. “I think we did good.”

To learn more about Way Street Pharmacy, you can visit their website here, and check them out on social media. (Facebook, Instagram). 

To learn more about Digital Main Street's programs and how we can help your business visit here.

About Digital Main Street

Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. DMS is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Meta, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, Lightspeed, Ebay and Canada Post.

Continued investment from the Province of Ontario, through the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade (MEDJCT) has allowed the ongoing expansion the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses going digital across Ontario.

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