Long’s Drugs continues impact as multigenerational business
Posted on: March 27, 2019
Long’s Drugs has an evocative history tied to family, hard work and the quintessential American dream. Knowing this backstory is important to fully appreciate College of Pharmacy 2018 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year Ken Long’s professional inspiration and rise to success, which he largely attributes to his father, Eugene Long.
It has been a huge honor to receive this recognition. The honor arrives from becoming a member of a great group of men and women who have also had the same recognition ...
Ken Long Outstanding Alumnus of the Year
Eugene was a University of South Carolina freshman when he took a job at Campbell’s Drugs in the Cornell Arms Building in 1951. Unsure of what major to choose, the young man from Estill, S.C., did know he needed an income to sustain his college career. When he boarded the bus in Estill for Columbia, his path had been blessed with “$100 and a handshake” from his father.
He secured a job at Campbell’s Drugs because it was the closest place to work near his dormitory on the Horseshoe. It proved to be a fortuitous decision that would later touch the lives of his beloved family and the community he loved. The family business grew to 23 stores spread across three states to provide personalized, community-based healthcare for almost 50 years.
Pharmacy owner John Campbell would have a profound influence on Eugene, encouraging him to change his major to pharmacy after his first semester. After setting Eugene on the course to study pharmacy, Campbell ended up selling him the store in 1968, ensuring it would remain a family drug store.
Family is at the center of the legacy and history of Long’s Drugs. Eugene met his wife, Lorraine Moore, while he was working in the store. Over the years, nearly all of their children would work in the small store in the Cornell Arms Building, or in the other Long’s Drugs stores as the company grew. Ken’s older brother, Gene Long, became a full-time pharmacist in the Cornell Arms store after graduating from the College of Pharmacy in 1978. When younger brother Ken joined the team after graduating in 1980, the small family business had to expand.
“My dad had to buy store No. 2 so I would have a place to work,” Ken says. “We only had the one store, and we didn’t need another pharmacist, so my dad bought the store at the corner of Kilbourne and Devine Street, which became our flagship store.”
Ken is quick to emphasize that working in the drug stores “was always a family affair.” He does not hesitate in attributing the success of the business to his father. Just as Campbell served as the fount of inspiration and guidance to Eugene, Ken found that motivation and encouragement from his father.
“I worked in (the Cornell Arms location) as a kid and watched my dad do it, and it’s all I ever wanted to do,” Ken says. “I didn’t consider any other school of profession. I would not have been a pharmacist if it wasn’t for my father. We were business partners for 20 years. During that time, he was a real example, a mentor to me; everything from taking care of people, taking care of patients, business practices, and he does not get enough credit for the success we have had. John Campbell had created the opportunity, but my dad created the desire.”
Encouraged by the success of the Devine Street store, the family continued to find opportunities to purchase stores and build the business until it encompassed 23 stores. Ken took on the role of CEO and would visit every store each week until selling the company in 2014. He currently serves as chairman of the board and members of his family, as well as other College of Pharmacy alumni, still work for Long’s Drugs: Christie Epps, ’92 and ‘97, as CEO; daughter Rebecca Long Gillespie, ’97, as director of operations; nephew Daniel Long, ’15, pharmacist; and niece Lauren Long, ‘16, pharmacist.
Ken Long is an exceedingly accomplished pharmacist, entrepreneur, and alumnus of the College of Pharmacy, He is a tremendous role model for our students, faculty members and alumni.
Dean Stephen J. Cutler, College of Pharmacy
“You know, I’m proud that we developed a family business that was really good for our family — our genetic family,” Ken says. “But we also built a family of 375 employees that we really treated like family, and they responded to that. I am really proud of the reputation we have in the community, in small towns all over South Carolina. I’m really proud of the people we hired, and the way they represented Long’s; really quality folks, the pharmacists, the majority of which were graduates of the College of Pharmacy. The legacy left behind is who we took care of, all those patients for multiple generations.”
Grateful for the important role that community pharmacy, as well as the College of Pharmacy, has been to their family, Ken established the Eugene P. and Lorraine M. Long Endowed Scholarship Fund in 2009. This scholarship provides support for College of Pharmacy students who are interested in pursuing a career in independent, community pharmacy.