Medical Arts Pharmacy

Within nine (9) months of graduating from Pharmacy School, he was given the opportunity to acquire the Medical Arts Pharmacy, the drug store where he was employed and he took advantage of it.  Again, his ability to be able to use his creativeness, his foresight into business practices, gave him the vision to improve his drug store business from being your normal everyday drug store, to a ranking status of being one of the most successful and definitely most interesting pharmacies in North Louisiana.  The Pharmacy was a 5,500 square foot building, which was considered to be a little larger than most others.

When he bought Medical Arts Pharmacy, he found that he had some tough competition out there from some well established drug stores that had been in business for a long time or even for generations.  As the new kid on the block, Rocky had to be different and innovative to vie for their client’s business.

He was a pioneer in many areas, not only as it pertained to the Pharmacy business but also many other facets, which before had never been thought of.  Some of these explorations included a red-carpeted, large cosmetic department with a full time cosmetician and annually, he co-sponsored the Miss Louisiana Pageant, which included an invitation to have her visit the store periodically.  He brought back the old time soda fountain, including the chrome round top stools, ice cream boxes, all chrome countertop, as well as milk shake makers, juke box music and all the nostalgia of the 50’s and 60’s.

It had game rooms, both for kids and adults and in the back was a room for relaxation created specifically for all the doctors to get away from stress at any time during the day.  The kids had toys, small toy exercise apparatuses and all of them were treated from the free soda fountain and the very ill children always left with a free toy gift.  In the waiting area for the parents who were either waiting for appointments or a prescription to be filled were a couple of pin ball machines, a pool table, a bowling board, a shuffle table, a juke box and other table games in that designated area.

Medical Arts Pharmacy was located in the heart of what was to be a large growing medical community, which was the home of approximately 40 doctors.  In the doctors (lounge) relaxing room, they were treated to a golf putting green, a car race track, movies, a couch and comfortable chairs to relax.  They also had their own private pin ball machine and other games.

He purchased two Volkswagen Beetles to use as delivery vehicles and named them “The Pillwagon” They were re-painted to display this name along with advertisements such as Pills, Capsules and other colorful items he offered at his drug store.  It wasn’t long before his “Pillwagon was a household name and the customers would call in their orders and prescriptions referring to have the “Pillwagon” deliver to them.

Once his Pharmacy was better established in the community, he began to call upon the medical community, including doctors, to distribute his flyer that listed all the wonderful things that Medical Arts Pharmacy had to offer.   That also included the introduction of a 24 hour on call service, where patients could call and were then met by him or one of his pharmacists to take care of their needs.  Another marketing strategy to get his place of business well known was to add discounts to doctors, pay for orders of magazines, create magazine covers for them with his advertisements on it and then deliver them to doctors’ offices for their waiting rooms.

Before too long, Rocky’s hands-on approach and personable interest in his customers and their welfare earned him a very favorable clientele.  One of his services was to finance medication for those who couldn’t afford it, especially for the babies and children.  Most of the time his generous heart would not allow him to even do that, so he would donate the medication without their knowledge and always derived immense satisfaction from being able to help someone in need.

Every holiday was a treat to all who either visited the drug store or even just drove by.  All occasions were recognized in the front display-window, which always had the appropriate decoration for the event.  For Christmas everyone was welcomed by Santa, Easter welcomed the children with live rabbits, Thanksgiving was celebrated with a turkey and so on for all holidays.  Somehow, he always found a way to use one or two manikins as props in each scene, which really thrilled the young, since they looked so realistic.  The store remained decorated all year around to keep the atmosphere as happy as possible since a doctor’s office and a drug store are normally considered places where kids sometimes experience not so happy times associated with an illness.

Besides having all Miss Louisiana Pageant winners visit, he also co-sponsored the annual ice skating shows and had several famous ice skaters visit the drug store for fun and autographs for all ages.  He also had a large number of the Saints Football Players come to meet and pick up the spirits of the kids.  There was an extremely long list of similar interesting people, he even brought in national racecar drivers, recording artists, college athletes and distinguished politicians, which included several visits by Louisiana, Governor John J. McKeithen.  Due to his position and involvement in the community, many other State and local leaders could be seen at the store at any given time.  It eventually became the place to be and to be seen, especially on Sunday mornings when the Governor’s car with the # 1 license plate was parked in front.  Coffee was always on the house and contributed to a lot of coffee being brewed.

Look Magazine was doing a human interest feature article in the Sept 17, 1968 issue.  The story title was “How to Succeed in Business Before Graduation”.  It seems that Rocky had provided a strange job to one of the students that were attending Northeast Louisiana University in Monroe, Louisiana, peaking the interest of a writer for Look Magazine.  The idea was, to drive a hearse around for him with advertisements written all over it that were sold to businesses or anyone that had something special to say.  He was always thinking about ways to market the Medical Arts Pharmacy, this idea would advertise his Pharmacy and pay for itself.

He decided to buy an old hearse from a funeral home in Alexandria, Louisiana, about 65 miles away from Monroe.  He paid $40.00 dollars for it, purchased $3.00 battery and added a good cleaning to begin his venture.  He then sold sections of the body of the hearse for advertisement slogans, which were written by him in shoe polish.  Then he hired students to drive it around town or to different functions to fit their schedule at class.  The monthly payments he received for his advertising depended on the visibility and size of the ad and that income usually paid for the driver, maintenance, gas, etc.   Some of his slogans included; “Had To Use This, Since I Didn’t Buy From Medical Arts Pharmacy”; “If You Don’t Like Flowers, They’ll Grow On You – Mulhearn Funeral Home”; “We’re The Best At Laying Down – Liners Carpets”; “Making More Music for Less – Discount Tape Village” and many more. He enjoyed the novelty of it, people noticed his sense of humor and it made them laugh and gave college students a flexible job.  The advertising business was good and since it increased his Pharmacy business, he hired more college students, bought another hearse and used it as advertising expense.

However, success came with a price, too many hours both in the drug store and his music, playing golf and motorcycle riding after hours, left him with little time for anything else, however he always tried to juggled things around to manage time for his family.

He sold his pharmacy in 1970 and after a short retirement period, he decided to join a couple of very good friends named Billy Trotter and B.I. Moody, III at Self Service Restaurants, in the development of Burger King Franchises.  Rocky worked with them from 1970 to 1978.  From the initial restaurant that Billy and Jimmy Trotter opened in New Orleans in 1963 until the sale of the company with name changes to Chart House, Inc. in 1974, then to Diversified Restaurants in 1983, it had grown to 1,350 restaurants consisting of several different restaurants in the chain.