After more than four decades, Maximart Pharmacy to close

Store clerk: Longtime pharmacist and owner Ben Kwong is retiring

A customer visits Maximart Pharmacy at 240 Cambridge Ave. in Palo Alto on Nov. 20 before it closes its doors for good after four decades. Photo by Sammy Dallal.

Maximart Pharmacy, one of the few remaining independent pharmacies in Palo Alto, is closing its doors at 240 Cambridge Ave. on Wednesday after serving the city's residents for more than four decades. According to a store clerk, owner Ben Kwong is retiring.

On Monday, patrons — many of whom have frequented Maximart for decades — were blindsided by the news. As each customer came up to the register to pick up prescriptions, Kwong informed them matter-of-factly that the neighborhood pharmacy was closing. Any prescriptions currently held by the pharmacy will be moved to Walgreens on 2605 Middlefield Road unless otherwise instructed.

"Oh my god," said one customer in shock when she heard the news. She has depended on Maximart for her patient's prescriptions for 15 years, she said.

"I get all my meds here," said another customer in line, who was able to recall the exact date she first came into the store.

But it's not just the convenient location Palo Altans are losing. Many have depended on Maximart for Kwong's personalized service and dedication to the job.

Not only is he known to greet his customers on a first name basis, Kwong has become a local favorite for his undivided attention to his customers, where he takes the time to answer any questions they might have about their medication and, in some cases, special-ordering prescriptions and delivering them for those who are no longer in town.

"He and (Maximart) have been a real anchor for the community," said Seth Knoepler, who runs a counseling and psychotherapy office on Cambridge Avenue. "In the two decades that I've been a patron, I've come to think of the place as a little like a neighborhood bar for people who don't drink."

Maximart Pharmacy first opened its doors in 1970 at the current site of Fry's Electronics. After the owner of the master lease became ill in 1988, Kwong moved his pharmacy to its current location on Cambridge Avenue.

Kwong declined to comment for this article.

Related content:

Read our 2001 profile on Kwong, "Ben Kwong: prescription for success," here.


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17 people like this
Posted by Personal healthcare thing of the past
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2019 at 11:57 am

A friend back east has owned an independent pharmacy for 30+ years, she takes very good care of her customers and employees about 14 people. Independent pharmacies are going the way of small medical practices. We are forced to deal with corporate healthcare; Kaiser, PAMF, Stanford, Walgreens, CVS and 3rd party billing. Personal touch is a thing of the past.

12 people like this
Posted by Goodbye To Old Times
a resident of Southgate
on Nov 19, 2019 at 12:11 pm

Old time Palo Altans (not the newbie-driven yuppies) will remember Bishops Pharmacy on California Avenue. It was once located where the old Round Table Pizza restaurant was situated & the old soda fountain stools were still intact.

Later down the road, Rexall Drugs (where the art supply store is located) served as a drug store & one could buy just about anything there in addition to prescription medicines...magazines, Timex watches, perfumes, pens/pencils & minor office supplies etc.

Those days are long gone...the 'big three' CVS, Walgreens and Long's are now running the show.

16 people like this
Posted by Roger
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 19, 2019 at 12:28 pm

Surely no one begrudges Ben the rest and relaxation of retirement after so many years of community service!

10 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 19, 2019 at 12:49 pm

Thanks for the service. May Ben enjoy retirement and his employees find meaningful employment.

5 people like this
Posted by RCS
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2019 at 1:08 pm

Uh, I hate to break the news to you but Longs Drugs is long gone too...bought out by CVS several years ago. Perhaps you were thinking of Rite Aid?

19 people like this
Posted by JB
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 19, 2019 at 1:14 pm

Oh, no! I can actually walk to this pharmacy and have used it for years. I wish Ben well, but I really, really hope that John and Diana (who have been there for decades) find a good job close by. They're such nice people who go out of their way to help customers. So sad.

6 people like this
Posted by S mom
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 19, 2019 at 1:50 pm

We will miss them very much! I'm a second generation customer!

12 people like this
Posted by Mitigate
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 19, 2019 at 3:15 pm

Now the city needs to make sure a new business does not open in this location unless they competely mitigate their impacts on the city

14 people like this
Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 19, 2019 at 3:15 pm

Maximart Pharmacy will be missed!

Like this comment
Posted by Goodbye To Old Times
a resident of Southgate
on Nov 19, 2019 at 3:16 pm

> Uh, I hate to break the news to you but Longs Drugs is long gone too...bought out by CVS several years ago. Perhaps you were thinking of Rite Aid?

^^^ I stand corrected. Yes...Rite-Aid is now an integral part of the 'big three' corporate pharmacies.

Another observation...back in the old days, pharmacists were actual apothecaries mixing various concoctions in liquid and powdered form. Today, most are pill dispensers & an entirely new field of pharmacy 'technician' emerged decades ago.

7 people like this
Posted by "R.D."
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 19, 2019 at 3:16 pm

That's the name Ben would call me during the 25+ years I would call-in prescriptions to him. My patients all loved him and his commitment to serving the community is (at least until tomorrow) unmatched. For those who wish to avoid the CVS/Walgreens monopolies, check out NowRx. They are a local company that delivers and their customer service has been really good so far.

6 people like this
Posted by cheese guy
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 19, 2019 at 8:56 pm

cheese guy is a registered user.

I love this place, having gone there for over 30 years. Ben was the paternal perfect pharmacist who always made sure that you were well informed. But why with just one day notice and now being forced to have my Rx information handed over on short notice to Walgreens (a corporate giant with all kinds of problems). It would have been better to give us a couple of months notice, allowing us to switch the Rx info to a pharmacy of our choice and not having to go to Walgreens to switch it out. Despite these concerns, all the best to Ben.

Like this comment
Posted by Steve C.
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 20, 2019 at 7:33 am

Camino Pharmacy at PAMF in Mountain View IS an independant pharmacy.You dont need to be a PAMF patient to go there.They give personal kindly service and go the extra mile.Please give them a try on the second floor.Lots of parking.Steve C.

3 people like this
Posted by Pam
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 20, 2019 at 9:29 am

Another small business in Palo Alto bites the dust.

5 people like this
Posted by Susie
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 20, 2019 at 10:40 am

Warm wishes and gratitude to Ben from the Borton family. He is an exceptional human being and deserving of all good things. We may not like it but change is a constant.

2 people like this
Posted by Cal avenue local
a resident of Nixon School
on Nov 20, 2019 at 7:21 pm

All best wishes to Ben, his lovely wife, John and Diana. I would love to have said goodbye in person but maybe that's what he was hoping to avoid. I have really enjoyed visiting the shop, I agree with the comment about it feeling like a special neighborhood spot!

Like this comment
Posted by JJ Lipari
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 22, 2019 at 1:04 pm

My wife and I have been going to Maximart for almost 40 years. I will miss their friendly service. I was totally surprised by this.

Like this comment
Posted by wmconlon
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 22, 2019 at 8:14 pm

wmconlon is a registered user.

Farewell to Ben and his friendly staff. I will miss Maximart.

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