Growing Up At Finnegan's Pharmacy
Of all the days as I can remember, I spent half of them at 4010 West 12th Street in Little Rock, Arkansas, better known as Finnegan Family Pharmacy. Daily after school and on the weekends, I learned innumerable skills from the basics such as cleaning and stocking a storefront, to working a cash register, counting back change without a calculator, and mentally figuring up sales tax. I fronted shelves, inflated thousands of balloons during the huge sales holidays of Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, created elaborate gift baskets (which I was NOT very good at), and later on I worked charts in the medical supply trailer in the parking lot (there wasn’t room for this growing arm of the business in the building). To this day, I still work for the family in the medical supply business. What can I say, it’s in my blood.
But it’s not just the business aspect that I’m connected to. Finnegan Family Pharmacy was a hub of community activity. Customers were able to come in and pay their 30 day charge accounts, utility bills, send mail and buy postage, ship packages, buy money orders,cash checks and just come sit and visit awhile. Finnegan’s was far from being just a commercial business. Our customers were our family. Car broke down? You would always get a lift. Did your child make it into college? We celebrated with a party and a collected scholarship gift. The pharmacy bought a few cars for folks, held regular community barbecues and cookouts, paid for some funerals, attended local church services, and opened early and stayed late for our people; because that’s what our customers were called in my house, our people. We were all different colors and ages. I learned about the integration of Little Rock Central High from some of our customers that lived it. We were all together in this neighborhood. We were all the same people. We loved our customers as family.
It’s not like Finnegans was a beacon or a Godsend, but we were a hub. We listened to people; which at the time, not many leaders in the city did. The neighborhood wasn’t scary but it had many needs. Growing up as a Little Rock UAMS (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences) family, I have always known the neighborhood. Both my parents, Vicki and Karrol Fowlkes, went to UAMS, worked for UAMS in some form or fashion, and spent their adult lives in Little Rock. I attended Gibbs Elementary Magnet School and later Little Rock Central High. I was never far from the 12th Street neighborhood. It was our home too. As I grew older, my dad retired from UAMS, and my mom realized it was probably time to slow down and they sold the pharmacy to USA Drug. I can’t speak for them, whether they miss the store or not, but I know we all miss the neighborhood. So much change has happened and is happening. It makes me proud.
We were very proud to have UAMS turn our old pharmacy into a UAMS Neighborhood Wellness Center. We were honored to have Sen. Mark Pryor, Mayor Mark Stodola and a representative from Tim Griffin's office present to show their support.
Check out the media coverage from the re-opening of Finnegans Pharmacy as as the 12th Street Wellness Center: