By Janna Hall
Whether you’ve lived in Richmond for two years or 32 years, one thing’s certain: this city’s undergone some prolific changes. From breweries to coffee shops and mass renovations, Richmond’s transformation into RVA proves bittersweet for many residents. On one hand, change is necessary, and this city is in fact bustling with more small businesses and opportunity than ever before. On the other hand, many wonder if the city will stay true to its roots. History, community, and culture are cornerstones of the capital city, and we must prioritize preserving it in all efforts to move the city forward.?
Dr. Shantelle Brown is that preservation personified. As the owner of HOPE Pharmacy, which opened in Church Hill’s new Market on 25th on April 29, Brown represents more than Richmond’s bright future. Growing up attending church in the neighborhood, she brings to the community an understanding of the neighborhood’s past, a vested interest in its future, and a deeply-rooted connection to the people she’ll serve. Dr. Brown brings to the community over two decades serving the public as a pharmacist, and now, she’s making history as one of Richmond’s first Black female pharmacy owners.?
A Howard University graduate, Dr. Brown returned home to Church Hill during her school breaks to begin her pharmacy career at Edloe’s Professional Pharmacy, coincidentally on 25th street, not far from where her new pharmacy now lives. Knowing that she needed to expand her knowledge to serve people of all races and demographics, Brown parted ways with Dr. Edloe’s pharmacy and took a position as a pharmacist within the Ukrop company. It was there that she gained a firmer understanding of what the community truly needed: professionals who understand the nuances between different groups and tailor their medical care accordingly.?
“In order for me to learn more about other cultures, I needed to step out for a few years,” Dr. Brown explains. “So I learned about patients who come from different means, and understood that medication works different for everyone. What’s prescribed for an African American is different than what’s prescribed for Caucasians. Textbook knowledge is important, but actual experience is instrumental.”?
Her search for valuable experience led her from Ukrop’s to Sam’s Club. She opened and managed the Laburnum Avenue location in October 2008, where she worked for ten years. In January 2018, Sam’s Club and the parent company Wal-Mart decided to close 10% of their locations across the U.S., including the one Dr. Brown led. Instead of worrying about her next career move, she immediately went into protector mode, making sure her associates were all prepared for their next move.
“I wanted to make sure they were all okay; I hadn’t fully taken it all in. When I finally did, I immediately asked myself what I wanted to do next. I never thought to own my own business.”?
While entrepreneurship was nowhere on Dr. Brown’s radar, she’s no stranger to the idea of controlling your own destiny. Her husband has owned a business for many years, and he encouraged her to take a similar leap and run a pharmacy of her own.?
“I reconnected with Dr. Edloe, and he informed me of what was happening in [Richmond]. He spoke about the project that Steve Markel was working on, and he told me to keep my ears open because he may want a pharmacy in the development.”
In the meantime, Dr. Brown found out that King William Pharmacy was for sale, but in order to make it work, she’d possibly have to relocate the pharmacy and layoff most of the employees.?Dr. Brown didn’t want to lay anyone off; she knew exactly what that felt like.
Passing on King William Pharmacy opened the door for a meeting with Norm Gold, the visionary behind the new Market at 25th, and the rest is history. Literally.
Dr. Shantelle Brown is one of the first Black women in Richmond to own her own pharmacy, and one of only a handful of Black female pharmacy owners in Virginia.?
With this incredible opportunity to return to her beloved neighborhood of Church Hill, Dr. Brown has plans to go beyond traditional pharmaceutical care in order to foster real transformation in the city. And that transformation begins with educating the public.?
“Before my husband and I got married, he took care of his ill mother,” begins Dr. Brown. “I’d go to doctor appointments, and I’d ask the questions. We received very different care because I was educated on the proper questions to ask. So think about if we educate our patients; the fact is that patients are treated differently when they’re educated and know what questions to ask. And if our patients aren’t reading or cannot read, we have to give them the tools they and their caregivers need in order to receive optimal care.”?
This desire to educate patients is what excited Dr. Brown about the presence of VCU’s Health Hub, which sits directly beside HOPE Pharmacy in the Market at 25th. That center, combined with the Bon Secours’ facility and resources they’ve created in Church Hill, will complement her pharmaceutical care and help patients take a more active role in their health. She envisions seminars, opportunities to provide counsel, and empowering patients to practice preventative care through healthy lifestyle changes.?
All in all, Dr. Shantelle Brown’s mission is clear, and her legacy began the moment the doors of the Market at 25th opened on April 29, 2019.?
“When I started out as a pharmacist, I had three things against me: I was young, Black, and female in a white male-dominated profession. Today, things are changing, and even though you see more female pharmacists, the number of Black female pharmacists are still low. What’s important to me is being a role model for my children, and for all those who dream.”
Dr. Brown remains intentional about exposing her children to diverse leaders in all professions. Children can’t be what they can’t see, and it’s critical that they see themselves represented in industries across the board. Dr. Shantelle Brown isn’t just breaking barriers in the pharmaceutical industry; with the launch of HOPE Pharmacy, she’s showing children of color everywhere that ownership can be a reality for them, too.
“Years ago, I’d never thought I’d own my own business,” Dr. Brown says with a smile. “I was happy with just working, going home, getting a paycheck, and taking my vacation, but now that’s all changed. It’s been very rewarding, and between the way things have lined up and the people I’ve met, it’s all letting me know that this is what I’m supposed to be doing, and that God’s hand is all in it.”
HOPE Pharmacy and the Market at 25th opened on April 29, 2019.?