Carrie Rengers

Former Westlink Gessler’s to reopen for closing sale

Hal Schwarz didn’t get to say goodbye to his customers when he closed his Gessler Drug Co. stores in late April, but he’s going to get another shot this week.

Schwarz is reopening his store at the Westlink Shopping Center at Central and Tyler to have a closing sale of all remaining gifts, beauty products and greeting cards from that store and the one he had next to Il Vicino near Douglas and Oliver.

“It’s filling the store rapidly,” Schwarz says.

The sale will run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. starting Wednesday and continue every day except for Sundays and Mondays. Schwarz isn’t saying yet when the last day will be.

There will be a large assortment of Hallmark cards that will start at half off. There will be product lines such as Claire Burke, Vitabath and Precious Moments, “which you’re not normally going to see discounted,” Schwarz says.

He says he’s also been “just digging in the back room” where he says he probably had too much in storage.

“We’re coming up with a lot of unique items used for display over the years.”

The sale also is a chance for Schwarz to visit with his longtime customers – some of whom he’s known for half a century – in a way he couldn’t before he abruptly closed last month.

Because the businesses were pharmacies, Schwarz says he had to handle the closing especially carefully.

“The most important thing to do is take care of people’s prescriptions.”

He says accuracy is everything, and it was important to be able to review medications and care for patients in other ways.

“That’s near impossible to do if you’re trying to say goodbye.”

Schwarz says he and his employees learned a lot from when an employee died suddenly in 2009.

He says they discovered “just how much people cared for him and how much of our time was taken with sharing our feelings.”

Schwarz says it would have been too much to say goodbye and make a smooth transition at the same time.

All customer prescriptions were immediately available at Walgreens after Gessler closed. Schwarz says the quick turnaround “is pretty amazing to me now when I think about it.”

Though it was a shock to everyone involved, Schwarz says he thinks customers are understanding.

“I think they knew how much we cared. I really do.”

Schwarz has seen a number of them as he’s gone in and out of his stores getting ready for his sale.

“It’s still been an emotional experience. You never know … when that’s going to hit you.”

Schwarz purchased the business, which started in 1938, in the late 1970s.

Joe Gessler set up a very good … organization with a lot of good principles.”

Schwarz is now almost 79, but it’s not only his age that prompted his retirement. He says his employees were aging, too.

One at the east-side store had a stroke. When she returned to work, another left for knee surgery. A third at the west-side store retired.

“It was a matter of you can only be so many places,” Schwarz says. “That seemed liked a sign that it was time to move on to the next phase of life.”

Also, he says it seems like the periods between replacing technologies in the store kept getting shorter and shorter.

Schwarz says he knows he had something special with Gessler and the loyalty his customers showed.

“We’re just so thankful for that,” he says. “It’s just so difficult to express.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers

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