Biz Beat

Service with a smile, in English or Spanish, awaits at independent Modesto pharmacy

Navigating the health care system can be challenging under any circumstance, made even more so with a language barrier.

For the largely Latino population along south Modesto’s Crows Landing Road, a new independent and locally owned bilingual pharmacy has opened to give a personal touch to the daunting task of understanding one’s health. Familia Farmacia debuted last month along the busy thruway, and its owner said it offers an alternative to the more well-known corporate pharmacy chains.

Owner Miguel Oseguera, a Hughson native, said he hopes his new pharmacy will fill the void left when the long-running Carranza Pharmacy closed its Crows Landing Road location about two years ago. The pharmacy had been a staple in the neighborhood for more than 30 years.

As such, many in the community should recognize his pharmacist, Isaac Montelongo, who spent a decade working at Carranza Pharmacy. Together they are now operating the only independent and Spanish-language pharmacy in south Modesto.

“We needed a Hispanic pharmacy here. You break that barrier for people and continue to provide quality health care,” Oseguera said. “These patients, they leave lost from the doctor’s office, and if there is no one to help them, they also leave lost from the pharmacist. So who knows if they will take their medication like they’re supposed to.”

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The new Familia Farmacia, a locally owned independent pharmacy, opened on Crows Landing Road in Modesto, Calif. Pharmacist Isaac Montelongo prepares a prescription on Sept. 20, 2019. Marijke Rowland mrowland@modbee.com

Familia Farmacia offers English and Spanish-language services. It accepts Medicare, Medi-Cal, Health Plan of San Joaquin and most other major insurances. It also offers free delivery, veterans discounts and complimentary pill packs (which puts all of a patient’s prescriptions in easy-to-read packaging according to time of day and day of the week).

The modest 2,400-square-foot space sits between a hair salon and a print shop in a strip mall. The former auto shop has been transformed into an airy, clean pharmacy. The store shelves aren’t full yet, but Oseguera is slowly stocking them with various over-the-counter drugs and an assortment of homeopathic options including traditional Mexican herbs and other remedies.

What the small two-man operation lacks in quantity, it hopes to make up for in quality care. Oseguera and Montelongo know most of their customers on a first-name basis. That includes Modesto resident Deborah Jarvis, who was a longtime Carranza Pharmacy customer and now has switched to Familia Farmacia despite moving across town.

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The new Familia Farmacia, a locally owned independent pharmacy, opened on Crows Landing Road in Modesto, Calif. pictured Sept. 20, 2019. Marijke Rowland mrowland@modbee.com

“I just like these guys, they’re friendly and not like (other chain pharmacies) where they don’t know you at all,” she said.

Montelongo, who went to work for CVS after Carranza Pharmacy closed, said he came back to work at the independent pharmacy because of that connection with patients.

“It’s just more rewarding,” he said. “I’m actually able to interact with the patients here.”

A pharmacist since 1979, Montelongo said he empathizes with the residents in the region. He said he grew up poor and flunked second grade because he could not speak English. Now he serves customers in English and Spanish fluently.

That connection to the community is also what drives Oseguera. He worked with Montelongo at Carranza Pharmacy for 10 years, and also spent 13 years as a volunteer firefighter in Hughson, eight years with the Air National Guard and two years as a Hughson planning commissioner. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Hughson Fire Department.

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The new Familia Farmacia, a locally owned independent pharmacy, opened on Crows Landing Road in Modesto, Calif. Owner Miguel Oseguera and pharmacist Isaac Montelongo pictured inside the pharmacy on Sept. 20, 2019. Marijke Rowland mrowland@modbee.com

He said he wants to continue that service with his new business.

“We are filling the void for the people,” Oseguera said, “not just the Latino community but anyone in general that doesn’t want to wait those long lines at a chain or want that friendly face that recognizes them by their first name, greets them, jokes with them, makes their day a little bit better after coming from waiting a long time at the doctor’s office. That’s what we’re here for for the community.”

Familia Farmacia, at 1757 Crows Landing Road, is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, and closed Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call 209-566-9956 or visit www.facebook.com/FamiliaFarmacia.

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Marijke Rowland writes about new business, restaurant and retail developments. She has been with The Modesto Bee since 1997 covering a variety of topics including arts and entertainment. Her Business Beat column runs midweek and Sundays. And it’s pronounced Mar-eye-ke.
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