Hiland grad filling prescription for a dream

Photo by Beverly Keller, The Budget. Joel Gause stickers products and stocks shelves as he prepares to open Premier Pharmacy in downtown Berlin.

*This story first appeared in The Budget’s June 13, 2018, Local Edition.

By Beverly Keller
The Budget

Man has dream. Man follows dream. Man works hard to make dream come true.

This is the story of Joel Gause of Sugarcreek. This Hiland graduate is working to fill his prescription for a dream: owning and operating his own pharmacy. “My dream has always been to come home and open something of my own right here where I grew up,” Gause shared from his chair inside his office at Premier Pharmacy located in downtown Berlin.

He noted that it is an incredible feeling to follow a dream that he has had for so long. “It really started when I was still in high school,” Gause recalled. “I really got into chemistry in high school because of my teacher, Mr. Blanchard. I was placed with pharmacist Rod Mast in a shadowing type of arrangement in high school, and we built a relationship. I interned with him every summer during my college years.”

Gause shared that he has always viewed Mast as a role model and mentor. “We always kept in contact,” he shared. “He let me bounce ideas off of him, and he was always ready to talk about the business end of things and the practice side, too.”

Gause completed his coursework at Ohio Northern University, a school Gause picked because of its small-town atmosphere and it was something he was comfortable with. The school also offered an outlet where he could play basketball. However, after tearing his ACL his freshman year, basketball went to the back burner.

When he graduated, he came back to Berlin and started working locally as a pharmacist. Yet, in the back of his mind, he wanted something more. He wanted to give back. He wanted to serve the community in a much bigger way.

“I have always just known what I wanted to do. And my wife, Layla, knew that as well,” Gause explained. “About a year ago, we started some serious conversations about the idea and how to make it happen. We talked about taking the chance and seeing if we could make it happen. We decided to do it now while we are still young and able. We don’t want to regret 20 years from now that we didn’t at least try.”

From there, Gause had his work cut out for him. “I had to create a business plan, and we had to do market research,” he stated. “We looked at the statistics of the area and found the break-even point while looking at potential volume, all the business stuff.”

Gause also found Cardinal Health Services. “It all started with a one-hour conversation,” he shared. “They have been absolutely great to work with and cater to the independent pharmacies and have been a good partner. They have handled some of the red tape that we have to go through with getting insurance network approval in some cases.”

While he lives in Sugarcreek, Berlin is Gause’s hometown. “It broke my heart to leave Sugarcreek [where he had been working as a pharmacist at a retailer] because of the relationships I built there,” he said. “But it makes sense to open up here in Berlin. There is a need here, and I want to fill it.”

Going forward, Gause is excited about his role in healthcare as pharmacies evolve in the next 10 years. “I can see a pharmacy being a point of care with testing for blood pressure and blood sugar as well as cholesterol,” he said. “I can see working with a nutritionist and nurse practitioner as a patient’s doctor and making suggestions and recommendations. I can see getting more involved in disease management and even getting into compounding.”

For now, he’ll be open six days a week to care for the needs of others, one prescription at a time.