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