Posted 4/19/16 (Tue)
By Cecile Wehrman
Over a 43-year history of pharmacy and retail service, patrons of J. Co. Drug came to regard owners I.J. and Bev Jacobson as friends.
As the back room of the drug store swelled with well-wishers during a retirement open house Friday in Crosby, jokes were as abundant as expressions of appreciation for the dedication and long hours the couple devoted to serving the community.
“There are people from all over the state who come to this store,” said customer Bev Dokken. “They just like the store.”
“They’re very dedicated folks,” added Ilene Howard. “I hope they can enjoy life now.”
“It isn’t often that the community’s biggest drug dealer gets cake and a party,” joked Don Anderson.
Just about everyone in attendance expressed the sentiment that I.J., 71, and Bev, 69, have earned a rest as well as a celebration.
Having expressed an interest as early as six years ago of selling the store and retiring, the right offer did not come along until a group of peers took it upon themselves to form an investor’s group to buy the couple out and, they hope, turn the business over to a single pharmacist-owner again someday.
“We just don’t think it would be fair for Divide County not to have a pharmacy,” said Terry Dick of Stanley, one of three initial partners who put the ownership transition plan together. (See related story, Page 6).
The Jacobsons grew up in Divide County, then went away for college and married in 1967.
I.J. joined the staff of Easton Drug when I.J. graduated from pharmacy school in 1968. The Jacobsons purchased the business in 1972 and it was located across the street.
In 1978, they bought the north half of what is today’s store, and in 1997, expanded to take in a second store front.
Between those years, they raised a family of five -- Erik, Trina, Lara, Krista and Jessa -- with each of the children getting their first taste of work in the store, or simply hanging out because that’s where mom and dad were.
“Jessa remembers sleeping in the floor of the office because she was sick and I had to work,” said Bev.
“It’s not a 9 to 5 job,” Bev added, though they thought that when they started.
As well wishers trickled into open house, tales ranged from memories of Moonlight Madness shenanigans to merchandise that went over big.
“Just when you think no one could come up with anything else, Bev comes up with something else you could call a collectible,” quipped Crosby Mayor Bert Anderson.
“I think I own half the shares in here from collectibles and cards and medications,” said Ed Retzer, who misses good times with a collector’s club that was highly active for years.
Another customer reminded Bev of the days when comic books and magazines drew kids into the store.
“I.J. used to stand at the front of the store and kick kids out for reading magazines,” said Bev, if the kids got ahold of the publications intended for an older audience.
When it came to Hallmark products, “No one knows Hallmark like Bev does,” declared Steve Joraanstad, who still marvels at Bev’s remembrance of some pencils sold to his parents.
“That’s what a good retailer is -- someone who remembers what you bought from them,” said Joraanstad.
I.J. held down the pharmacy -- no easy job, while also supplying the medication needs of a hospital and nursing home and the on call time that service demanded.
One time, related Kay Garbel, Dr. Nandra said her son was so ill he would need to be hospitalized unless I.J. could get some medicine into him, stat. Garbel took her son, Sam, to the drug store with Nandra’s prescription, handing the medication directions to I.J.
“He filled it, gave me a medicine spoon and in it went,” related Garbel, right on the spot.
Though the store for years was open on Sunday, I.J. often used the evening hours for bookkeeping, though he did manage to also coach hockey when Erik played as a youngster. The couple remain avid hockey fans, though Bev joked they’re as likely now to fall asleep in front of a televised game as cheer.
Over the years, Bev became a master at creating displays to show off merchandise and create sales.
When it came to moving merchandise, I.J. lauds his wife’s abilities.
“Making those displays is what made it,” he said.
As Bev explained, “If all Hallmark stores look the same you’re only going to stop in one. If you display it differently, it’s not going to look the same.”
An avid devotee of rummage and antique sales, Bev was always on the lookout for that special something to serve as a backdrop or addition to a display to create interest in merchandise.
Over the past few weeks, “I can’t believe how much stuff I have in here,” said Bev, referring to the many unique and personal items brought into the store to create showcase items for sale. She’s been busy weeding out what she wants to take home and selling some items, while simultaneously cleaning out decades of display items stored at the couple’s historic home.
The Jacobsons plan to remain in Crosby indefinitely.
“We’re not going to Arizona,” said I.J., and the door is not closed to either of them helping out at the store, if needed.
“I don’t think we’d have a friend who would help us move,” Bev joked, given the extent of her personal collections.
Many friends are offering advice on how the Jacobsons should spend their retirement as well as acknowledging it’s going to take time to learn a new way of living after making the store their life for four decades.
“You will be at a loss after a few days,” Doris Johnson tells Bev. “It takes a while to adjust.”
Bev quips to Erin Sorum she’s going to take up serving coffee at Sorum’s gas station.
Bev isn’t really sorry they won’t see 50 years in business.
Though, “It would have been nice if we started earlier.”
One thing this scion of all things Hallmark is looking forward to is sending out Christmas cards.
In the past, she’s used cards to mark all kinds of occasions with friends, except for Christmas.
In past years, “We saw everyone at the store,” so there was no need to say it with a Hallmark.