Edmonton

A different kind of dispensary: Edmonton sisters open pharmacy cafe

'We wanted to sit down and talk with patients'

Awake cafe pharmacy

Twin Brooks Pharmacy and Awake Coffee House in south Edmonton serves up prescriptions and hot coffee. (Awake Cafe/Instagram)

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Angela and Kay Song are adding a healthy dose of caffeine, steamed milk and baked treats to the traditional pharmacy.

Edmontonians can now get their caffeine fix while picking up prescriptions.  

The Song sisters are certified pharmacists, and so are their husbands. Together, they've opened two businesses in one — a pharmacy cafe.

Twin Brooks Pharmacy and Awake Coffee House just opened in south Edmonton's Twin Brooks neighbourhood.

The dual business model intends to make the pharmacy waiting room a little friendlier.

'A lot of people look very dragged down'

The Songs came up with the idea after realizing how depressing traditional dispensaries can be.

"A lot of people look very dragged down and they will stare at the wall or blood pressure machine and have no energy, and just wait there for their prescriptions," Angela Song said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"But you can sit at cafe​s for hours. And you see seniors at the coffee shop, reading newspapers and enjoying their moments in the coffee shop. So we wanted to merge those ideas."

The pharmacy and cafe spaces are divided by a wall. Customers waiting for prescriptions are given a pager, Song said, and are then free to go next door and sip latté​s until their orders are filled and the pager rings.

The sisters immigrated to Canada from Korea in 2002 when they were nearing high school graduation. They had always wanted to pursue medical careers, Song said, but found many aspects of the Canadian system were too impersonal.

They wanted to interact with their patients, and pharmacy school seemed the perfect fit.

"It's really nice in a way, as a pharmacist, it's the most community-oriented and most approachable health-care profession. That's what attracted us to the profession, and then we met our husbands in school. That's how we ended up with four pharmacists in the family."

As they started working in dispensaries, they realized the spaces were cold, sterile, unfriendly.

The Songs are hopeful the family-run business will create a pleasant, community-oriented space where people feel comfortable asking questions, and building relationships with the staff.

"We hated how the pharmacy was hidden back in the corner, or behind this counter," Angela Song said.

"We wanted to sit down and talk with patients about their drugs, and make it more of an open concept. And that's why we decided to start this."

A few weeks after opening, business is booming. 

"It's going really well," she said. "We have a lot of people come in for a good cup of coffee."