Hillsboro Pharmacy, other businesses make progress after fire
The Hillsboro Pharmacy and Fountain is progressing toward having a fully operational pharmacy again, says owner Jasmine Nguyen.
Nguyen quickly started looking for a temporary location after a massive fire occurred next door Jan. 2 at the Weil Arcade in downtown Hillsboro, destroying eight businesses' storefronts. Police arrested a Hillsboro resident suspected of arson in connection to the blaze days later.
A combination of firefighting efforts and building design, fire officials say, prevented the fire from spreading to the pharmacy — the oldest continuously operating business in Hillsboro — leaving it with repairable smoke and water damage.
Nguyen finalized a lease for a temporary location at 155 S.E. Second Ave. days after the fire. She and her employees have been working overtime to get the space up and running, Nguyen said.
Community members' support ever since the fire has helped make progress. On Saturday, Jan. 8, a group of volunteers helped move undamaged materials from the original location at 243 E. Main St. to the temporary location, which they also helped paint. The volunteers included Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway and city councilors Rick Van Beveren and Beach Pace.
"I feel surprised and I feel lucky that I'm in this community," Nguyen said of the support. "It makes a big difference."
The effort to move usable materials from the original location to the temporary one continued on Wednesday, Jan. 12.
But there are several more steps ahead before the pharmacy can be fully operational again, Nguyen said.
She needs to build a counter and install computers, she said, adding that she's planning to drive to Eugene to buy new shelving for medication at the only store she could find that has the right ones.
An internet provider is expected to have the pharmacy online within a day, Nguyen said, allowing pharmacists to process prescription payments.
Since the fire, she has been filling prescriptions at her other two pharmacy locations for customers to pick up in Hillsboro. Without working computers in Hillsboro, customers have had to pay cash, she said.
Nguyen says that inconvenience, as well as traffic delaying when her husband arrives in Hillsboro with filled prescriptions, has left some customers frustrated.
"I understand, but we're trying our best," Nguyen said.
While she and her employees are still working to reschedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments made before the fire, the pharmacy has been about to provide about 20 shots to people at the temporary location, Nguyen said.
If all goes well, she's hoping to have the temporary location fully operational sometime next week, she said.
The timeline could have been extended much longer, Nguyen said. Officials at the Oregon Board of Pharmacy and the Drug Enforcement Administration were understanding about the pharmacy's situation and worked with Nguyen to process licenses for her new address quicker than usual, she said. Such processes took weeks when she did it at the pharmacy's original location, Nguyen said.
One thing that can't be moved from the original location to the new one is the pharmacy's kitchen and soda fountain, which Nguyen says she's committed to maintaining when she's able to reopen on Main Street.
Kathy Schmidlkofer, manager of the pharmacy for 37 years, says between the pandemic and the fire, counter service at the soda fountain has likely had more interruptions in the last two years than it did in the previous several decades.
Schmidlkofer said she's particularly glad the soda fountain wasn't damaged during the fire, because much of its equipment was likely installed sometime in the mid-20th century.
"It all still works like a charm," Schmidlkofer said, adding that it would be hard, perhaps impossible, to replace.
Some of the eight businesses that were displaced by the fire have been able to reopen temporary locations nearby.
Other businesses on Main Street that sustained less severe impacts from the fire or firefighting efforts continue to work toward reopening.
Workers were cleaning and removing materials Wednesday damaged by smoke that flooded into the Venetian Hillsboro, located three storefronts east of the Weil Arcade, as the restaurant's ventilation system was open and running during the fire.
John Lee, owner of the Venetian, says he feels lucky the fire didn't spread to other buildings. He expects to reopen the restaurant by Jan. 20.
But he says the fire killed the momentum toward having regular special events at the Venetian. After acquiring the building in 2020, Lee started renovations, turning what used to be a nearly 400-seat theater into an event space.
"We were just finishing up the ballroom, just got the drapes up, just got the flood down, everything was ready to go, and now, here we are again," Lee said.
He added that he had to cancel an event to celebrate the New Year scheduled days after the fire, which would have been the first event there.
Lee said cleaning staff have made a lot of progress on removing the smell of smoke since the fire. It may linger a little bit when the restaurant reopens, he said, adding with a laugh that the chef and bartenders may lean into the smoky smell with their offerings.
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