News

After more than four decades, Maximart Pharmacy to close

Store clerk: Longtime pharmacist and owner Ben Kwong is retiring

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.

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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.

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

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After more than four decades, Maximart Pharmacy to close

Store clerk: Longtime pharmacist and owner Ben Kwong is retiring

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Nov 19, 2019, 9:58 am

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.

Comments

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

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.


Goodbye To Old Times
Southgate
on Nov 19, 2019 at 12:11 pm
Goodbye To Old Times, Southgate
on Nov 19, 2019 at 12:11 pm
12 people like this

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.


Roger
Evergreen Park
on Nov 19, 2019 at 12:28 pm
Roger, Evergreen Park
on Nov 19, 2019 at 12:28 pm
16 people like this

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


Brian
Evergreen Park
on Nov 19, 2019 at 12:49 pm
Brian, Evergreen Park
on Nov 19, 2019 at 12:49 pm
10 people like this

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


RCS
East Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2019 at 1:08 pm
RCS, East Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2019 at 1:08 pm
5 people like this

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?


JB
Evergreen Park
on Nov 19, 2019 at 1:14 pm
JB, Evergreen Park
on Nov 19, 2019 at 1:14 pm
19 people like this

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.


S mom
Community Center
on Nov 19, 2019 at 1:50 pm
S mom, Community Center
on Nov 19, 2019 at 1:50 pm
6 people like this

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


Mitigate
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 19, 2019 at 3:15 pm
Mitigate , Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 19, 2019 at 3:15 pm
12 people like this

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


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

Maximart Pharmacy will be missed!


Goodbye To Old Times
Southgate
on Nov 19, 2019 at 3:16 pm
Goodbye To Old Times, Southgate
on Nov 19, 2019 at 3:16 pm
Like this comment

> 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.


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

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.


cheese guy
Registered user
Palo Verde
on Nov 19, 2019 at 8:56 pm
cheese guy, Palo Verde
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2019 at 8:56 pm
6 people like this

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.


Steve C.
Mountain View
on Nov 20, 2019 at 7:33 am
Steve C., Mountain View
on Nov 20, 2019 at 7:33 am
Like this comment

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.


Pam
Charleston Meadows
on Nov 20, 2019 at 9:29 am
Pam, Charleston Meadows
on Nov 20, 2019 at 9:29 am
3 people like this

Another small business in Palo Alto bites the dust.


Susie
Barron Park
on Nov 20, 2019 at 10:40 am
Susie, Barron Park
on Nov 20, 2019 at 10:40 am
5 people like this

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.


Cal avenue local
Nixon School
on Nov 20, 2019 at 7:21 pm
Cal avenue local, Nixon School
on Nov 20, 2019 at 7:21 pm
2 people like this

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!


JJ Lipari
East Palo Alto
on Nov 22, 2019 at 1:04 pm
JJ Lipari, East Palo Alto
on Nov 22, 2019 at 1:04 pm
Like this comment

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.


wmconlon
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Nov 22, 2019 at 8:14 pm
wmconlon, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Nov 22, 2019 at 8:14 pm
Like this comment

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


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