With the plan of continuing to help serve the community’s uninsured with their medicinal needs, family-owned and operated Champion’s Pharmacy and Herb Store at 2369 Elvis Presley Boulevard is undergoing a much-needed upgrade of its facilities.
Dr. Charles A. Champion opened the pharmacy and store in South Memphis in 1981 and moved it to its current location in 1991. The pharmacy building was built in 1962 and was Harlow’s Donuts until it was sold to Dr. Champion in 1991.
Champion was the first African-American pharmacist at John Gaston Hospital which is now known as Regional One Health. He’s now 86 years old and still comes in to the pharmacy most afternoons to help his daughters, pharmacists Dr. Carol Champion and Dr. Charita Champion-Brookins, who now handle the day-to-day operations.
“Most of our customers who come in are uninsured and are looking for alternative meds,” said Dr. Carol Champion. “We do not fill prescriptions. We do a lot of herbal medicines.”
Time-tested herbal remedies might be sought to help treat a stomach ailment or a skin rash.
“We compound our own. We make soaps, ointments, creams, cough syrups, and things for gout and eczema,” said Champion. “We used to be a full-fledged pharmacy, and we decided years ago that we needed to find an alternative way to survive.”
About the 30 percent of the pharmacy’s business comes from online sales, and it also specializes in hard-to-find items like Father John’s cough syrup, Swamp Root (for kidney ailments) and Watkin’s liniments for arthritis.
Many of the other businesses in the neighborhood have closed or relocated elsewhere.
The family is upgrading the pharmacy thanks to a recently awarded $20,000 Inner City Economic Development loan from the Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis & Shelby County.
“A lot of the businesses are in need of an upgrade in the area, so when I was told about the EDGE program I felt our pharmacy would be a great start to try to make the neighborhood look better,” said Champion.
She used her own money to go ahead and start work on the 2,635-square-foot pharmacy’s interior, including new paint, shelving and compartments. The ICED funds will be used to help with needed roof work, parking lot repairs, exterior paint and an update to the façade and signage. Perkins & Son is handling much of the work. Total project costs are estimated at $33,600.