Editor’s note: This story is one in a series on Women in Cloverdale, a special series on Cloverdale businesswomen, athletes, historical figures and politicians.
Josephine Leonard and Christine Cheng make your health their priority.
When the sisters took ownership of the family business in 2014, along with their brother, Frederick Cheng, they knew that they wanted Cloverdale Pharmasave to continue being the same dedicated health centre that their parents had run for decades.
Their parents were both health professionals — Dr. Henry Cheng was a medical doctor and Anna Cheng was a radiological technologist. They joined the Pharmasave chain in 1983 and Josephine, Christine and Frederick grew up in the store, helping out after school and during holidays.
They saw their parents convert Cloverdale Pharmasave from a large format store to a health centre to allow them to focus on what they thought was most important: providing quality patient care.
This year, Cloverdale Pharmasave celebrates its 35th anniversary, and remains a true family business. Josephine works as the store’s marketing manager, Christine and Frederick are pharmacists, and Josephine’s husband, Martin Leonard, works as the general manager of the family’s Cloverdale and Steveston Pharmasave locations.
The staff are very much a part of the family as well, as the siblings have known the longtime staff members for decades. Pharmacist Christine Andrews recently retired after working at Cloverdale Pharmasave for 25 years — a few tears were shed at her retirement party, Josephine admitted — and pharmacist Lyle Sunada has worked at the health centre since 1990.
‘I fell in love with this industry’
Josephine pursued business in university, earning a commerce degree before entering the hotel industry. She wanted to help people, and she was ambitious, too. “I wanted to go up,” she said. “It got to a point, after two promotions in six months, I wanted my boss’s job. And he wasn’t going anywhere.”
She also found that she wasn’t truly able to help people, which was the reason she went into the hotel business in the first place.
She returned to Cloverdale Pharmasave. “I thought, if I stop having fun, then it’s time to find something else to do,” she said. “But I never left. I fell in love with this industry.”
Josephine has been the marketing manager of Cloverdale Pharmasave for 18 years. She is responsible for the store’s event planning, including the Ladies Health Night event, off-site talks at nursing homes, support groups and universities, and arranging large scale events such as the Aging Gracefully trade show.
Her siblings, Christine and Frederick, also realized that the family store was where they could help people the most, said Josephine. Her brother and sister went to university and became pharmacists.
“Here, community pharmacy—not hospital pharmacy, not big box pharmacy, but community pharmacy — is where they can truly use their strengths and their passion to make a difference,” she said.
The sisters are passionate about natural health, as well as patient care. The Cloverdale health centre is dedicated to providing for a person’s whole health, and its pharmacists recommend integrating herbal and homeopathic medicine with orthodox medicine when they believe it could be to a person’s benefit.
Christine is the store’s integrative health pharmacist and veterinarian product specialist. When she first came to work for her parents, she “fell in love with the natural health side of things,” but quickly found her ability to help people was limited. “So often people would tell me, ‘I’m on this and this medication, can I still take these supplements?’ and I had to dash to the pharmacist,” she said.
Christine now enjoys being able to help people directly as a pharmacist, and she still has the strong passion for natural health that inspired her to go into her field.
As Christine explains it, “a lot of time Western orthodox medicine just helps with symptoms and the management of disease, and it doesn’t target the root cause of the disease. That’s where a more natural approach can help.”
“There’s not always an answer there either. But you’re likely to find more options there,” she said. “It really just opens up what I have at my fingertips to suggest to people.”
“Don’t get [us] wrong,” said Josephine. “We never, ever, tell the patient not to take the doctor’s advice or to not take the prescriptions. We always fill it. But we also try to integrate and support [their treatment].”
Josephine and Christine explain they turn potential customers away from natural products if it isn’t their best option.
“Natural [products] can still interact and counter your medication and other herbs,” said Josephine.
If you page through the testimonial page of the Cloverdale Pharmasave website, you’ll find letters from customers who have been turned away from the store or steered away from a product— only to return later, and then submit a glowing review.
Ann McBurnie, for instance, credits Cloverdale Pharmasave with saving her injured cat. After a conversation with a pharmacist, she was told she shouldn’t buy any products that day, and that she needed take the cat to a vet immediately.
She did, and, sure enough, surgery was needed. “I went out of there having bought nothing so this advice did not profit the pharmacy in any way,” said McBurnie. Now the cat is “healthy thanks to Cloverdale Pharmacy’s integrity.”
The testimonials, which are being collected ahead of the store’s 35th anniversary celebration this September, include many such stories. The staff and owners of Cloverdale Pharmasave are well-known for their dedication to patient care above all else.
Community members are invited to come down to the store to help celebrate its 35th anniversary on Saturday, Sept. 8. The event, which will support the Canadian Cancer Society, will have a silent auction, guest vendors, speakers, discounts for shoppers and more. For more information on the event, visit cloverdalepharmasave.com.