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Well-known community pharmacist retires after 42 years

GIRARD — Nothing ventured, nothing gained is what Paul Nuzzi reasoned when, with the blessing of his wife, he decided many, many years ago to strike out on his own in the drug store business.

That decision, however, to purchase Brine’s Pharmacy in Girard, didn’t come without anxiety. Used to a 40-hour workweek and steady paycheck as pharmacist at the former Kuszmaul Pharmacy in Niles, owning his own pharmacy meant his paycheck was uncertain and his workload would increase considerably.

And then there was worry he wouldn’t be welcomed by the community after taking over for John Brine, who had operated the pharmacy for years previous.

It turned out to be all for nothing.

“I’m glad I did it because it turned out to be the best decision I made,” Paul said.

The pharmacy — now in its third location on North State Street — epitomized the term family-run business; he was pharmacist and his wife, Cathy, kept the books and made deliveries. Paul’s children, Jennifer and Matthew, also worked there and in the early years, when his children were young, his parents and in-laws pitched in with babysitting while Paul and Cathy tended to the store and customers.

It’s where Paul made lasting relationships with people in the community that spanned generations, and it’s also where people found love, including Jennifer, who met her future husband, a man Paul brought on as a pharmacy intern.

Now that chapter of Paul’s life is closing.

Today is his last day at what is now Brine Hometown after more than 30 years there, including 20 years as owner of the independent pharmacy, and 42 years as a pharmacist.

“It’s no big deal that I am retiring. The only thing that is difficult for me, and I told my wife, too, it’s not that I am leaving a job. It wasn’t that I was an employee. That was my business, that was my life,” Paul, 65, said. “I spent countless hours in that store … it’s not like I worked for someone and I’m leaving a job and I’m saying bye, thank you. I’m leaving what was my whole life really and the kids’ life and my wife’s life because we were all in it together.”

A convergence of interests in health care and science led to Paul attending pharmacy school at The Ohio State University. After graduation in 1979, he returned to the Mahoning Valley and worked in the pharmacy departments at a hospital in Chardon, the former Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren and a psychiatric hospital in Youngstown.

“I did that for about 10 years just between those hospitals and then I wanted to go into retail for something different,” Paul said. “Retail has more people contact. When you were in the hospital pharmacy, you were secluded in the pharmacy, you saw just the people you worked with and that was it.”

He took the job at the former Kuszmaul Pharmacy for a period and about 1990, purchased Brine’s Pharmacy. It was his wife’s uncle who introduced Paul to Brine. Part of the agreement the men struck was that Paul keep on pharmacy technician Nancy Bosch, who was vital in smoothing the transition and introducing Paul to the customers.

This fall will mark Nancy’s 49th year at the pharmacy.

“If I didn’t have her, I couldn’t have done it,” Paul said. “She was contributing to the store as much as my wife and children were.”

Paul sold the business to Boardman-based Hometown Pharmacy at the end of 2010, but stayed on as a part-time pharmacist.

“For the 20 years I had it, it was wonderful. I have no complaints. It provided a wonderful life for my family and me, but I was there night and day and thank God I had the wife I did, she raised the kids, because I was there at eight in the morning until closing six days a week,” Paul said. “Sunday we were closed, but I went down to do the paperwork. Seven days a week, I never missed a day of work in the 20 years I owned the store.”

He also saw that independent pharmacies were starting to go by the wayside. For example, when he bought the store, there were four in Girard. There is one now.

Also, his children, Jennifer, and son, Matthew, live out of the Mahoning Valley with his three grandchildren and soon-to-be fourth. Retirement, Paul said, affords he and his wife a chance to see them more. They plan, he said, to split time between Ohio, where Jennifer lives in Powell, and Florida, where Matthew lives in Gainesville.

It was in June when Paul said he made up his mind. He informed his wife; the first questions she asked, he said, was “was your day really that bad?”

“No, it wasn’t. I can count on both hands the number of bad days I’ve had in my career down there, but it really wasn’t,” Paul said. “I think it hit me that I’m getting older, my kids are getting older, my grandchildren aren’t here, I don’t see them that much. We have no guarantee for tomorrow, let alone 10 years from now.”

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