A presiding chair switcharoo, a mid-scene costume change and the announcement of a major expansion to services were part of the Sept. 13 anniversary celebration held in downtown Morristown at McFarland Pharmacy & Apothecary.
Roni Snyder, Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce chair-elect, is not one to abide a conflict of interest, so she took the reins from current chair Randy DeBord, who is co-founder and owner of Morristown-based McFarland Medical.
“Starting a business takes courage and hard work and determination and vision and a wonderful team of people you surround yourself with.” Snyder said. “Congratulations on putting all the pieces together and launching a wonderful business in downtown Morristown.”
“This has been a great, wonderful opportunity,” DeBord said. “I have loved every minute of it. It has been hard, there have been lots of things to persevere through and I have got the greatest team of employees in the world. Without those employees, we would not survive and we could not survive. They pick up the job and they do whatever it takes to make things happen.”
As a precursor to the major announcement, DeBord removed his suit jacket and wrestled an orange T-shirt over his shirt and tie. After some adjustment of the tie and a bit of smoothing over, a Tennova logo was revealed.
“As of Oct. 1, we will be opening gift stores at Tennova in Knoxville. We will be operating in the Turkey Creek and North locations of the Tennova facilities,” DeBord said.
In addition to gifts for hospital patients, the one-stop-shopping stores will feature uniforms, or scrubs, and shoes.
DeBord also announced that McFarland group will open a pharmacy on Nov. 1 at the Tennova North location. The pharmacy will serve an estimated 36,000 emergency room visits annually, along with 21,000 emergency room visits at the Tennova West site.
“We are very excited about the contract that gave us the right to do that,” DeBord said.
DeBord’s confessed addiction to caffeine, as evidenced by his ever-present coffee travel mug, was the lead-in to his third announcement at the celebration.
“We will be launching an additional piece of Morristown history with McFarland Reserve. This is a personal one, that I just really like,” he said. “We have partnered with Goodson Brothers, part of the old JFG, the James Franklin Goodson Company in Morristown, to cross promote the brand in Knoxville.”
During the celebration, DeBord outlined the achievements of the company during its first decade.
DeBord and his founding partners, Kendrick Smith and Mike Sigmon, began their vision of a medical business on Aug. 12, 2003 by participating in a health fair at Smith-Turner Drugstore in Sneedville.
“That’s the way we were going to get our feet wet, because we had no idea what it took to run a pharmacy,” DeBord said. “We really were planning on becoming a compounding pharmacy, so we started off doing compounds for a local pediatrician.”
As the three men began to develop their business, their vision of service became clearer.
“What was really happing was that we were becoming a long-term care pharmacy,” DeBord said.
After acquiring a pharmaceutical account with a small group home in Morristown, the accounts began to snowball and the company grew — “It was fun to see that process,” DeBord said.
After acquiring an account with a Knoxville group home, DeBord said, “I thought I knew what poverty was until we started serving these people. They lived with not much at all.”
The home was eventually shut down because of overcrowding, with 12 living in a facility licensed for just eight residents. The State of Tennessee later contacted the partners for help in locating the former residents, and DeBord brokered a deal to speak at the state’s upcoming meetings in Knoxville and Chattanooga.
“That really got our long term care business expanding and growing,” DeBord said. “Now we serve clients over to Nashville, down to Chattanooga and up into a little bit of southwest Virginia and a little bit into southeast Kentucky. We hope to continue developing that.”
In 2004, McFarland Medical opened its durable medical equipment line of walkers, wheelchairs and crutches, an endeavor that expanded quickly and required the company to move into two subsequent locations in Morristown. In 2005, the company opened a Knoxville store. In 2006, the owners moved its two Morristown operations into another larger building.
In 2007, the group bought the historic three-story building located at 167 W. Main in downtown Morristown and began an extensive renovation in partnership with Burke-Ailey Construction. They later purchased a building in Knoxville to help serve the company’s expanding territory.
In 2009, DeBord said the company served 250 oxygen patients, but was getting hit by competitive bidding.
“We knew that only the strong would survive,” he said. “We wanted to grow. We couldn’t hire people with the right skill set in time to really pursue that.”
After learning that Air Products was going to sell its oxygen product line, DeBord, Sigmon and Larry Lamb formed a partnership to acquire it and grow McFarland’s durable medical equipment services. The new venture proved successful, and they moved the DME business from the downtown location to the former Quincy’s restaurant building on West First North Street. The group also opened a DME store in Knoxville and eventually expanded to locations in Oak Ridge, Sevierville, Mountain City and Greeneville.
The growth left quite a bit of space in the downtown location, now known as McFarland Pharmacy & Apothecary. A decision was made to expand into medical uniforms, or scrubs, and shoes, including quality support brands used by the general public.
“At that point, we started going into the hospitals, setting it all up and doing a show for a one, two or three day period, it was a hard way to make a living but, hey, it was pretty fun,” DeBord said.
“So, ever since that has been developing, over the past two years, we’ve been figuring out a way that we can move forward,” he said. Our system, Mastermind, takes everything that is done through our pharmacy and puts it into a systematic workflow that is given to each patient in blister packs that assist patients and their caregivers to manage medication throughout the day.
“They get to take their 8 a.m. meds pre-packaged by a pharmacist,” DeBord said. “A lot of people do this in the home setting. Mom gets her meds at the right time, every time. That’s primarily where our big growth has been.”
DeBord announced that founding partner Sigmon will leave his duties with the company on Dec. 31 and move into full-time missions work. CFO Anthony Price has taken on organizational duties as well as providing financial leadership. Other managerial staff includes Manager and Pharmacist Jonathan “J.D.” Darnell, Melanie Morgan, Morristown operations general manager; Ron Brack, Knoxville operations general manager; Vickie Koon and Becky Lane, billing; and Debbie Calfee and Missie Odom, uniforms/inventory control.
“We’re going to remain positive that America will not accept a healthcare plan that does not meet the needs of individuals,” DeBord said.
“We’re going to be passionate toward our commitment to excellence. Before we started, we stated our mission as “the passionate pursuit of medical excellence,” and we have not deviated from that. We hope we can continue to do things for patients that will give them a better level of care.
“We thank you as a community. We love Morristown. We love downtown. We like seeing all of the things that are going. We hope we can be a small part of continuing to make that grow,” DeBord said.
- By Glenna Howington, Tribune Staff Writer