Parksville Pharmasave goes big for 15th anniversary

Eventful year includes expansion and renovation, another company award

Winning Pharmasave’s PharmaStar Health Centre of the Year Award for the fourth time in 2017 didn’t give staff at Parksville’s Pharmasave franchise big heads.

They did, however, get a bigger store.

Following an almost year-long renovation, Pharmasave Parksville will celebrate its 15th anniversary Jan. 15 with a grand opening of its expanded and renovated space in the Pioneer Plaza near Corfield Street.

“Typically we have an anniversary celebration every year,” co-owner Lonny Barr said. “But not as big as this one. It’s a grand opening as well.”

The grand opening will culminate an eventful year for the pharmacy, which is co-owned by Barr and original co-founder Tammie Toriglia. In addition to its success at the company awards ceremony in Whistler in late September, and the completion of its renovation and expansion, Pharmasave Parksville continued to expand into the health care services market, embarked on a clinical study of nutritional impact on Type 2 diabetes and bid farewell to Toriglia’s founding partner, John Shillabeer, who died in August following a battle with cancer.

“He was the life of the store,” Toriglia said of Shillabeer, whose daughter and granddaughter continue to work at Pharmasave. “It’s been a big loss, and there’s still so much of him in the store. For John and me, it was all about the service, having lots of staff and pharmacists to help give people the best support, and never about the money. That’s still the philosophy.”

Pharmasave Parksville has grown from eight employees at the time Toriglia and Shillabeer opened it in 2003 to 32 today, Toriglia said. They include two coaches working in the store’s weight-loss program, two more — including a licensed practical nurse — in its home health-care program, and several members certified for its Travel Clinic, which aids those planning overseas vacations and other travel.

“When I started practicing as a pharmacist years ago, we weren’t even allowed to give injections,” said Toriglia. “There’s been an evolution; our scope of practice has changed over the years and allowed us to do different things, like vaccinations. It’s been an interesting piece we’ve added, and it’s been professionally rewarding.”

That expanded scope of practice led Pharmasave Parksville to take part in the clinical study, run through the University of British Columbia, exploring the impact of dietary and nutritional changes on Type 2 diabetes. Barr said the store’s weight-loss program, which was started nearly four years ago, has experienced “good results.”

“We had been seeing a huge increase in the number of people with diabetes and people on multiple medications,” said Toriglia. “Through the Pharmasave group other stores started doing a weight-loss program that had huge success, and we thought, ‘Hey, we can do something that will give people healthier lives and help people get off their medications. It will be exciting to see the clinical proof of what we’re doing.”

The expansion of Parksville Pharmasave was driven by the need for space for its clinical programs, said Barr. The adjacent space became available when accountant Dene Roberts moved across the plaza last November, though Toriglia and Barr had been planning renovations as much as a year earlier.

“It needed a face-lift,” Barr said. “It’s taken a lot of months, and it was kind of messy for a few months in the summer. But we stayed open throughout; we didn’t close for a day.”

After first upgrading the newly acquired space, which now houses offices for the weight-loss and home health programs, the owners tore out a concrete support wall to create a single, larger store. The new look features an expanded dispensary counter and some additional floor sales space, as well as a new travel clinic office with modern, frosted-glass walls.

“It’s exciting to have a basically brand-new store,” said Toriglia. “And we tried to do things that were environmentally friendly, like all new LED lighting, flooring and energy-efficient heating. We want to try to be sustainable going forward, for the health of the staff and the community.”

Community involvement has always been a part of Pharmasave’s mission, both Barr and Toriglia said. The business has donated over the years to groups including Oceanside Hospice, Special Olympics, the Forward House Community Society and the Parksville Beach Festival, as well as many other local sports, arts and community service organizations.

“It’s been a wonderful 15 years for me, to be part of the community I grew up in and to be able to have our store really reflect our community,” said Toriglia. “And the community has been supportive of us, as well.”

The Parksville Pharmasave grand opening and anniversary celebration takes place Monday, Jan. 15 at 1-281 E. Island Hwy. Regular store hours are 8:30 a.m.-9 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays. For more info, call 250-951-0243 or visit

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