The stores, which were closed for 10 months, opened about a week apart from each other, with the first reopening on Feb. 28 and the second not far behind opening its doors this past Sunday.
CVS Health immediately announced it planned to rebuild the damaged stores; CEO and President Larry Merlo called restoring the pharmacies “the right thing to do” and said the company was “100 percent committed to serving our patients and customers in Baltimore.”
“As we watched the events unfold in Baltimore over the past week or so, our hearts turned from pain to the promise of what is ahead,” Merlo said at the time. “Our purpose as a company is helping people on their path to better health. There is no better way that we can fulfill that purpose than to reopen our doors and get back to serving the community.”
Riots shook Baltimore last April following the police-related death of Freddie Gray. Gray, 25, incurred a fatal spinal cord injury while in police custody. Officers failed to put a seat belt on Gray, resulting in a “rough ride,” and failed to provide him with medical assistance when necessary. Outraged citizens looted and destroyed buildings the day of Gray’s funeral. The man charged with setting fire to one of the stores pleaded guilty to arson in September and is now serving four years in prison.
During the 10 months the stores were being rebuilt, the pharmacy and the city’s health department made sure people did not have to struggle to get their medication. This meant delivering prescriptions to customers (sometimes without a copay), providing transportation assistance, transferring prescriptions to other pharmacies in the area and giving customers information on other pharmacies they could go to.
One resident, 41-year-old Jody Pranke, said she relied on public transportation to go to another pharmacy to get her heart medication during this time.
“It’s convenient for people that don’t have access to a car,” she said.
In comparison, the store that just reopened on Sunday is within walking distance for Pranke, showing what a difference those two stores make in the lives of people who relied on them for necessary medication.
CVS Health committed not only to helping its customers but to supporting its employees as well. During the renovations, employees of the two damaged stores were able to work at a store in a different location. Currently there are 29 CVS Health stores in the Baltimore area, including the two newly restored locations.
“It was daunting but not overwhelming to where we couldn’t do it,” Scott Staso, CVS district manager, said of the decision and the ensuing process. “I mean we knew the commitment to our employees, we knew the commitment to the community.”
Staso also reported that the store chose not to reopen with a grand ribbon ceremony and rather opted for a smaller ceremony so the store could reopen as soon as possible for customers.
Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) praised the company’s actions.
“The fact that CVS came back says they believe in the city,” he said.
Staso called reopening the stores a “no-brainer” and said, “There’s a lot of excitement and positive energy.”
CVS Health has a history of rising up to the occasion and living its values. In 2014 the company stopped selling cigarettes, despite losing an estimated $2 billion in revenue. In 2015 the company took this initiative a step further and announced it would leave the U.S. Chamber of Commerce following the chamber’s decision to fight anti-smoking bans overseas. Just as with the rebuilding of the Baltimore pharmacies, the company said in a statement of its decision: “It was the right thing to do for the health and well-being of our customers. [The company’s] purpose is to help people on their path to better health, and we fundamentally believe tobacco use is in direct conflict with this purpose.”