OWATONNA — In a surprising Facebook announcement, Sterling Drug alerted the Owatonna public that its convenience store and gift shop will be permanently closed come the end of the day Saturday.

The pharmacy, however, will remain open and resume business as usual.

According to Sam Ewing, the president of Sterling Pharmacy, the entire site will be purchased by Kwik Trip effective Aug. 30.

“We are closing the gift shop and convenience store early because we need to remove the merchandise prior to Kwik Trip taking over,” Ewing told the People’s Press on Thursday. “They will be turning it into a regular ol’ Kwik Trip with some construction, which generally is done very quickly.”

Pharmacy customers were first notified of the change via a letter on Monday, describing the transition of the store located at 410 Hoffman Drive to a Kwik Trip and Sterling Pharmacy.

Ewing said that during negotiations with Kwik Trip, he stated the importance of keeping the pharmacy in the same location as a Sterling Pharmacy. He added that the pharmacy will remain open throughout the construction project.

“We have had a store in Owatonna for many years and it’s super important to us that we remain in Owatonna in that location. It’s exactly where we want to be,” Ewing explained. “This is an exciting opportunity for us, and while I can’t speak for Kwik Trip I believe they are excited about the possibility of what this partnership might bring.”

The 11,500 square-foot store was constructed in 2007, officially moving Sterling Drug from its location at the former Cedar Mall to Hoffman Drive downtown. The drugstore had to find a new home after Federated Insurance bought the Cedar Mall building where Sterling Drug was leasing space. Federated bought the building in 1997 and gradually began converting the building into office space as tenants moved out. Sterling Drug was the last Cedar Mall tenant to leave in November 2007. The drugstore had been in the mall for more than two decades.

The gift shop and convenience store attached to a Shell gas station was a new concept for Sterling, and Ewing stated that it was the only store of its kind in the company. With the pharmacy industry constantly changing, Ewing said that Sterling is always looking new opportunities.

“Pharmacy is tough and our primary business is pharmacy,” Ewing said. “We have to be creative and look for new opportunities to thrive in the current environment. Having a shared space with an industry leader like Kwik Trip is a great opportunity for us and we’re looking forward to the exposure they will bring.”

“They are great at what they do and I think it should be a win-win,” he continued.

When asked about the fate of the convenience store and gift shop staff, Ewing said that is yet to be determined by Kwik Trip as they make the transition. The pharmacy staff, however, will remain the same as it will still be a Sterling Pharmacy.

Pharmacy patients will still be able to pick up prescriptions at the store and are encouraged to use the free prescription deliver if it is more convenient.

“We are grateful for our customer’s continued loyalty and ask them to please bear with us during construction,” Ewing added. “It is important to us that we maintain the pharmacy in Owatonna.”

The gift shop and convenience store will be open on Saturday for their last day during their normal hours of operation from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Sterling Drug is owned by Austin-based Astrup Drug.

Reach Reporter Annie Granlund at 444-2378 or follow her on Twitter @OPPAnnie.

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