SOUTHINGTON — Though operating a namesake pharmacy defined Ron Serafino’s life since he was a teenager, the time had come to close the doors.
At age 70, he wanted to spend more time with family, but still struggled with the decision to close the business.
It was “very difficult. It took me over a year to really put anything in motion and I kept wanting to go ahead,” Serafino said.
He filled his last prescriptions this past Monday, around 37 years after inheriting Serafino Pharmacy from his father, Paul Serafino, in 1984.
As much as he loved helping his neighbors every day and will miss the conversations, he has a fourth grandchild on the way and wants to be able to visit his children out of state more often.
He has also watched friends and family lose their health over the past year, which has shown him that he wants to be able to enjoy his good health with his family while he has it.
“It was my first time getting to pick up my grand-daughter from school the other day,” he said.
That family focus was readily apparent to anyone who walked through the drugstore’s doors. Serafino ran the business with his wife Nancy, photos of their children lined the walls and the family dog often made appearances. That extended to customers too, many of whom had been customers for decades and could expect not just to have their prescriptions filled, but to also receive information about their medications.
“I just want people to remember us as our motto on our invoices — that we were ‘a caring pharmacy.’ We did everything that would help a patient, that would make a person know that someone cared about their health and not treat them as just another person coming through the door,” Serafino said.
Serving generations of families for 65 years, Serafino Pharmacy was one of the original businesses that anchored downtown Southington and allowed it to grow into the bustling district it is today, said Barbara Coleman-Hekeler, president of the Southington Chamber of Commerce.
“We’re obviously sad to see them close their doors, but if anyone deserves to retire without a doubt it’s Ron Serafino. I’ve never met such a dedicated business person who was there 24/7 .. he gave that personal touch to everything they did; even after hours when they were closed when someone wasn’t well he would open up,” she said.
Even though he worked 80-hour weeks on occasions, Serafino still found the time to support local community organizations and Coleman-Hekeler said she has no doubt he’ll remain an active citizen.
“I can’t imagine that Ron will not stay active, you don’t go from having such a strong work ethic and connection to the community to a shutout,” she said.
For his part, Serafino said he has no intention of vanishing into retirement and raised the possibility of volunteering with local community organizations. He also plans to get more into sports like biking and kayaking.
“I’m not slowing down at all — I’ve got plenty of things to do, plenty of things I want to do,” he said.Family legacy
Serafino Pharmacy got its start in 1956 when Paul Serafino used the experience he gleaned from working at Oxley Drug Store, a few doors away, to branch off and launch his own operation with his brother.
Making sure his kids got a good education was important for the elder Serafino and his children would have to report to the store to stock shelves if their report cards had anything but As and Bs. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from the University of Connecticut, Ron Serafino began working with his dad full time in 1975.
“The biggest teacher that showed me how to do this was my late father … he was the biggest inspiration for me to keep this business going because I knew how hard he worked,” Serafino said.
For many of those years the pharmacy’s lunch counter served as a town gathering place, where customers discussed going-ons over sandwiches. It was there where Nancy Serafino met her future husband and she recalls knowing immediately that he was the one.
“It was a community-oriented place and people got together. Everybody knew each other and shared their thoughts on things,” Serafino said.
Town Council Chairperson Victoria Triano said every generation finds special places to meet and create shared memories and for her it was Serafino Pharmacy, where she’d go after school for a soda with friends.
“Growing up it was like family. You knew the Serafino family and they knew you and so it was. It was always just a very warm feeling when you would go in because you would see not only the Serafinos, but your friends and family from all over town,” she said.
Though she’s sad to see that lost, she said it’s understandable that after running such a busy enterprise for decades the time has come for Serafino to spend time with his own family.
“We’re going to miss Ron and everybody, but I’m happy they’re going to take some time and just be able to be together as a family,” she said. “So we’ll miss them, but we’re very happy for them.”