BROOKSVILLE - Many people remember the old neighborhood drug stores that had an adjoining soda fountain where patrons could grab a snack or drink while waiting for their prescription to be filled.
Gautam and Heena Thakkar plan to revive the concept when they open their newest PineBrook Pharmacy at 720 S. Broad Street, site of the former Huddle House that closed a few years ago.
The Thakkars will renovate the building, extending the facade closer to the highway for easier visibility. Barring any permit problems, the first patrons could sip a frozen drink or pick up a prescription in about eight months.
The Thakkars have three other PineBrook pharmacies: at 5340 Spring Hill Drive, at 14482 Cortez Blvd. and at the corner of Mariner Square and State Road 50 (soon to move to Mariner and Spring Hill Drive).
But Heena Thakkar said there was a demand from Brooksville customers to open one near downtown.
This fourth location also will have space for people to order healthy fare, such as smoothies and yogurt. Down the line, Heena Thakkar said, the menu might expand to include soups and sandwiches.
Initially there will be about six inside tables for soda fountain customers. Another three or four tables will be outside. There also might be a drive-through for customer pickups.
The fountain fare will contain mostly natural ingredients, the Thakkars said. "Being in the health care industry," Heena Thakkar said, "it is very important to send out the right message."
Thakkar said she and her husband have been able to thrive with their family-owned pharmacies in spite of national chain drug stores that dot the landscape of Hernando County.
They opened their first PineBrook Pharmacy five years ago. She attributes their success to old-fashioned customer service.
"People are not just another prescription number," she said. "They're treated like a family."
She said the pharmacies will deliver prescriptions to customers as far south as Hillsborough County and north into Citrus County. Given the large population of seniors, the couple also customize the prescription packages, which include color-coded packets so people will know what time of day their medications must be taken.
Georgia-based Huddle House, a 24-hour diner, closed the store a few years ago and the building has remained empty.
Buddy Selph, with Tommie Dawson Realty, brokered the sale of the building and encouraged the Thakkars to move forward with the pharmacy-soda fountain theme.
"Every kid I grew up with, at the time all the pharmacies had a diner in them," Selph said.
So Selph suggested the Thakkars put a new twist on the theme and open a soda fountain with healthy alternatives.
"I just think it's going to be a natural fit (for Brooksville)," Selph said.