MANCHESTER — Walgreens remains closed 2½ months after a fire tore through the building, but the company has said the business will be open before Christmas.
Kris Lathan, a spokesperson with Walgreens’ media relations, said the store, located at 4993 Main St., is set to reopen in the next two to three weeks, specifying it will be in the first half of December and before Christmas.
Lathan said the company regrets the delay in reopening.
“We closed to facilitate necessary repairs following the fire back in September,” Lathan said. “We sincerely regret the inconvenience and thank our customers, pharmacy patients and store team members for their patience while we work on reopening as soon as possible.”
That announcement is the first communication the town has received since the fire, leading many to complain on social media about the lack of information.
The Journal reached out for comment via email and phone many times since the fire with no response until last week.
Calls to the Manchester Walgreens are being forwarded to the Bennington location, where a woman said they were getting plenty of calls on the subject but didn’t have any details.
Walgreens has been closed since Sept. 14 when a fire broke out in the back of the store and burned in the stockroom area.
Second Assistant Chief William Beiderman of the Manchester Fire Department said at the time the fire appeared to have started in the ceiling of the stockroom.
Multiple departments responded but were able to quickly gain control of the fire and extinguish the flames but not before water and smoke damage forced the store to close.
Prior to the fire, the store had been closed for a period “due to computer server problems,” which was originally blamed on weather based on signs on the door.
For a period of time, the store was on a cash-only basis and the pharmacy was occasionally closed, even when the store was open.
In fact, the pharmacy was occasionally closed during the pandemic without explanation. When combined with delays in filling prescriptions and long waits, some people began moving their prescriptions.
The Pharmacy-Northshire benefitted from many of those unhappy customers.
Diane Harrington, pharmacy manager for the The Pharmacy-Northshire, said they saw a big influx in new customers after the fire in September.
“We saw some people coming over locally before then,” Harrington said. “September was the large bump.”
Harrington said there were 10 to 30 new customers per day for a while, adding up to hundreds of new customers, and they’re still trickling in a few a day.
“It was stressful, but doable,” Harrington said. “It doubled our workload. We had to increase staffing and hours to meet needs. We were scrambling a little bit to make sure everybody got what they needed. It was difficult for us to meet all the needs, but we did our best to help out the community.”
The influx in customers was made harder by the fact the Walgreens computers weren’t able to send prescription information over, forcing The Pharmacy to reach out to providers to get new scripts sent.
The problems continue today.
Harrington said some Walgreens customers had their prescriptions on an automatic renewal process and the computers have continued to renew the prescriptions and bill insurance companies for it.
But customers are not getting their prescriptions, and when they try to fill the script at another pharmacy, their insurance is rejecting it.
“We’ve had a number of patients try to get prescriptions here only to have the insurance say it’s too soon to fill,” Harrington said.
She said patients needing insulin, heart medication and more have had to pay out of pocket or suffer delays in getting their prescriptions filled to solve the issue.
“They can’t walk in and get it,” Harrington said. “It’s making direct patient care difficult.”