West Ashley Native Opens Charleston’s First Black-owned Pharmacy In 30 Years

City of Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg cuts ribbon at the Focus Meds Pharmacy & Wellness grand opening ceremony Saturday, March 25. Standing to the left of the Mayor is Krisalyn Gleaton, owner of the pharmacy.

When Krisalyn Gleaton held the grand opening for her new drug store March 25 in the Harrell Square Shopping Center West Ashley at 200 Sam Rittenburg Blvd., she not only marked a milestone in her personal career, she also made a mark in local history by opening the first Black owned pharmacy in the Charleston metropolitan area since Wilson’s Drug Store on Spring Street closed its doors 30 years ago. She also became the first black female to own a pharmacy in Charleston.

The 1998 Saint Andrews Parish High School graduate discovered a love and passion for chemistry while in high school. Gleaton thinks she inherited some of it from her mother, a high school physics teacher. As a high school student she considered a career in medicine and thought about a career that would combine medicine with her love for chemistry. And although she toyed with the idea of becoming a lawyer – she worked for Charleston attorney Renee Gators while in high school – it was a part time job at a pharmacy while in college that got her focused.

Gleaton’s 4.0 GPA at Saint Andrews Parish High made her class valedictorian and those study habits sustained her through her 2004 graduation from Hampton University School of Pharmacy as Magna Cum Laude. Since graduating, Gleaton gained vast experiences through internships and work at hospitals in Virginia. She worked on the staffs at several major chain pharmacies that included CVS, Safeway Food & Drug, Target, Kmart and OptumRx/United Healthcare. Two months ago she opened Focus: Meds Pharmacy and Wellness.

She made the decision because she wants to help people, she says. “I enjoy being a pharmacist, but the scope of the profession has changed from patient care to profit. My passion is chemistry and helping people, but pharmacy is becoming more about pushing pills and pharmacists play more of a dispensing role than caregivers. In the past your pharmacist also was a counselor and confidant. You could ask your pharmacist questions and get advice. I want to be a part of my patient’s life. Owning my own pharmacy allows me to do that, to get to know my patients and their needs,” she said.

Gleaton sees a need in Charleston for a pharmacy that’s based on the personal needs of patients. She says she’s proud to be able to fill that need. It’s an obligation she and her three other staff members look forward to fulfilling.

“I’m proud and humbled to be the first African American owned pharmacy in the area in some three decades, but there’s definitely a need here as more people realize ands want one-on-one relationships with their pharmacist,” Gleaton said.

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