SELMA – As much as technology has changed business in 40 years, Ron Jung says taking care of his customers remains the same priority.
Ron and Dianne Jung have owned Selma’s Fox Drug Store for the past 40 years and are celebrating with an open house on Sept. 26. While Ron Jung says the delivery of medicines may have become more efficient with changing technology, it’s still the personal connection with his customers that’s most rewarding.
“We’ve gone through three generations of customers now. We’ve started with the mom and her kids and now it’s their kids. To me, that’s the most fulfilling part of it, that you’re actually helping the customers.”
The Jungs purchased the drug store from Logan Fox who owned it for 20 years. His father, Clyde Fox, owned it for 20 years before that. Thus, the store has been in Selma for almost 80 years now. It may have moved locations around the downtown area to increase in size, but their goal is still the same.
Office manager Phyllis Yeager said there were at least three family-owned drug stores in the 1970s in downtown Selma. “Fox Drug is the only one that has survived,” she said.
Fox Drug has grown over the years and now has four locations. There are 30 employees at just the Selma location.
The Jungs met while they were pharmacy students at the University of Southern California. After graduation, Ron Jung worked at Kaiser Permanente at first and his wife taught pharmacy for a year after she graduated. Once they started a family, they were looking for a way to have more flexible hours. When the opportunity to purchase Fox Drugs came up, Jung says it was perfect timing.
Jung is from Chowchilla so small-town life was nothing new to him. His wife is from San Bernardino but moving to a smaller community was ideal as they were starting a family. The Jungs now have two sons, Jason and Nicholas.
“Selma was a growing community and they’ve been nice to us. People have always been friendly since we’ve been here,” Ron Jung said.
In the beginning, Ron Jung says he recalls using manual typewriters and writing out insurance billing by hand.
“Every [prescription] was hand written by the doctor or called in. Now, the doctors send them electronically so you get them straight to your computer. The billing is done by modem so as you type it up, it bills it off, as long as you have the patient’s information.”
And now, the most common medications are filled automatically, he says. That makes the process more efficient, but Jung says it’s still the human connection that makes a difference in their locally owned store.
“It’s still that interaction with the patient and getting them their medicine and making sure it’s right.”
Ron Jung says that just as most retail stores are evolving, even pharmacies must change with the times.
“As far as the future of pharmacy, I don’t know if one day, everything is done by mail order. Last year, [the chain stores] felt the impact from Amazon. The younger generation doesn’t like going to shop, especially in bigger cities. They don’t want to fight the traffic and fight the parking. That hasn’t come to a small town yet since [stores] can’t get enough delivery service to make it worth their while like Amazon.”
The Jungs say they’re planning on paring back their involvement with the day-to-day operation of the pharmacies so they can travel and plan a wedding for their youngest.
"The past 40 years have been wonderful. Over that time, we have developed many heartfelt rewarding relationships and I hope to develop more through the coming years," Dianne Jung said.
The business will stay in the family as the plan now is to have their son, Jason Jung, take over. Still, letting go isn’t that easy.
“Customers keep asking us not to leave. They don’t want to go to a chain store where they’re just a number. We’ve had some families that have been customers for 40 years. They don’t want to change. The only time we seem to lose some customers is when their insurance gets picked up and they have to go somewhere else. Or they get a contract with a big chain or make them go mail order.”
Jason Jung has a master’s in business administration now, but he does recall coming to the pharmacy even in his youth.
“I grew up in the pharmacy. I’d sit in the office and do my homework and he’d be out there counting the pills and helping the community,” he says of his father. “Now, I do more of the back end, the marketing and the operations of the business.”
As Jason Jung takes the helm, he says he’ll concentrate on growing the business and providing good service.
“I’m really thankful to the community for supporting our family business for 40 years. Hopefully, they’ll continue to support us and we’ll provide a good service to the community in return.”