Howard’s Pharmacy has been a fixture in Morristown for years at its location near the intersection of Central Church Road and West Andrew Johnson Highway, and when it was time to sell the business and retire, the prior owners found the right buyer in Chad Huntsman.

Huntsman, a native of Morristown, moved back to Morristown, along with wife of 20 years Marsha and daughters Hannah and Olivia, after going to pharmacy school and practicing the craft in Nashville for a few years.

“Pharmacy, for me, was a second career,” he said. “I was older and had been to school once. I was an engineer at Mahle and did construction.”

He was familiar with the area and the local pharmacy community because his father is Joe Huntsman, Jr., longtime owner and operator of College Park Pharmacy in Morristown.

The younger Huntsman didn’t always plan on entering the family business; he had spent the better part of his younger adult life working in the construction field, but when the housing market crashed in 2008, it took much of the wind out of the sails of the industry and Huntsman knew a career change could get him where he wanted to go.

So, at the age of 37, he packed up his young family and headed out to the state’s capital where he would spend the next few years learning the ins-and-out of the craft his father had mastered.

While ties to Morristown run deep for his family, Huntsman also has ties to the Howard’s itself.

“This used to be Howard Brothers Pharmacy at Howard Brothers Department store right up the road,” Huntsman said. “The gentleman who was the pharmacist there was named Willie Eversole. My mom and dad and Willie and Nancy went to pharmacy school together. They actually moved from Memphis to Morristown in the same U-Haul- all their possessions and kids included.”

When Howard Brother’s Department store closed, Willie moved the store to its current location.

Huntsman said Willie’s son, Stan, is one of his closest friends.

“There’s a lot of personal ties here,” Huntsman said. “Matter-of-fact, we found some stuff in the back that still had Willie’s name on it.”

Willie Eversole died in a accident over 30 years ago and the business was sold, so Huntsman said owning and operating the pharmacy feels a little like finding a missing family puzzle piece.

Poetically, Stan Eversole was invited to own a part of the business that his father ran all that time ago.

“He got to come back to the store that was his dad’s store and have a stake in it,” Huntsman said.

Huntsman is excited to ramp up the operations of Howard’s.

The plan is to take some of the space in the building to provide a pharmacist consultation area.

Huntsman plans to beef up the processing and verification systems the pharmacy utilizes to make sure medicine is handled in the most secure, professional way possible.

“One thing that we’re really proud of is that at least four people look at every prescription,” he said. “This is a big deal to me because accuracy and getting it right as a pharmacist is paramount.”

He said chain stores’ business model is to sometimes only staff one or two people, and that the independent store at Howard’s has a system that has more checks on prescriptions by more people.

The team at the store is on a path to develop new and better services, such as “bubble pack” packaging that helps patients stay organized with medicine, and to maintain traditional Howard’s features such as the friendly staff and free deliveries.

In addition, Huntsman also runs his father’s pharmacy, College Park Pharmacy, and owns two more pharmacies in the Tri-Cities regions, so he knew he needed another pharmacist at Howard’s to help provide the best possible service.

Jacob Cox stepped up and is now working seamlessly with the team at Howard’s.

Huntsman knew Cox from pharmacy school and Cox has bought in fully both in terms of investment, but also in terms of embracing the hometown, personal touch and commitment to quality.

Howard’s and the other stores utilize wholesaler McKesson to supply the group. McKesson’s works with pharmacies under the “Health Mart” banner.

“They’re the largest (pharmacy) wholesaler,” Huntsman said.

The combination of an experienced and trusted management team, the purchasing power provided by McKesson and the volume of multiple stores and other factors means that Howard’s can, more often than not, beat out prices offered on medication by the box stores.

“I had patient that transferred into College Park from a chain with eight different medications,” he said. “We’re told them ‘we’re gonna give you a good price to begin with.’”

Huntsman looked up the prices of the medication vs. “Good RX” prices at chain stores and found that the customer was now saving over $100 per prescription fill.

“Why would a patient ever go to one of the big chains?” Huntsman asked rhetorically.

He said that they wouldn’t be cheaper on every prescription, but, overall, he said people should go independent stores to save money.

“All we do is charge a fair markup,” Huntsman said. “That’s it. We’re local people. We live here in the community. My parents have been in the same house for 50 years. The money we make we spend in the community. We try to make a living and that’s it.”