After almost 70 years in business in Sligo, the Higgins family has sold its two pharmacies to another family business.
Two of the Higgins siblings — Ann Christine and Stella — are to retire as pharmacists from the company, which their father established in 1948. The third, Ken Higgins, will remain on as a pharmacist with the new family owners for two days a week.
Twin sisters, Ann and Deirdre Butler, have bought the two pharmacies, which are based on Teeling Street and Market Cross in Sligo town. It was extremely important to Ken and his sisters that the company would remain family-run.
“When looking for a buyer, we didn’t want the business to be bought by a multiple, we wanted it to remain family-run and we wanted the staff to keep their jobs,” says Ken Higgins, who is 30 years in the family business.
“We were very happy when we met Ann & Deirdre as they seem so nice and we think they will work well with the current team, looking after our customers. We wish them all the luck in the world.” The new owners, twin sisters Ann and Deirdre Butler with the staff from Higgins Pharmacy
Ann and Deirdre — both pharmacists, originally from Ballina Co. Mayo — had always wanted to own a pharmacy business together. When the opportunity to buy Higgins pharmacies came up, the sisters were thrilled.
“We could not believe it when we discovered such a well-respected family business had come up for sale. It was a perfect fit for us,” says Ann. “We are very proud to continue from a family with such a history here in Sligo and the fact that Ken is remaining on with us is fantastic. We are extremely grateful to the Higgins family to have been given this opportunity.”
Deirdre adds: “We want the pharmacies to remain patient-focussed and we want to emulate the way the Higgins family looks after their customers. It’s ideal that there are two pharmacies as it gives us an opportunity to expand the product base, especially at Market Cross, and introduce some new, exciting lines.” Double-Take
Customers might do a double-take when they are visiting the stores, as Deirdre will be based at Market Cross and identical twin Ann at Teeling Street.
The company would have been 69 years in the Higgins family in January as Chris Higgins, originally from Tubbercurry, opened their first shop on Teeling Street in January 1948, two years after he qualified as a pharmacist. He ran the family business for three decades.
“My father is 96 now and saw the business open and closed and his three children being able to retire and have time off. He is totally behind the sale to Ann and Deirdre and so would my mother, Betty, if she was still alive,” says Ken.
The Higgins family grew up on Circular Road in Sligo town and all three children had worked their summers in the pharmacy from when they were young teenagers, with Stella joining the business when she was just 16.
All three siblings studied at different colleges to become pharmacists and all eventually joined the family business — a unique story in any business. Their fourth sibling, Valerie studied psychology at UCD and was the only one not to join the family business. Ken Higgins will continue to work with Ann and Deirdre Butler two days per week
The second pharmacy, on Market Cross, was originally Slowey’s Pharmacy and was bought by the family at an auction. It opened under the Higgins name in January 1998 – 50 years exactly after the first pharmacy opened its doors.
“When you work in this business, you see people getting sick quite quickly and you start taking stock of your life,” says Ken, who turns 60 next year. “I believe you should spend a third of your life studying and a third working so that you can enjoy the last third. We wanted to live the last third of our lives with some energy and enjoy it so we decided now was the time to move on.”
But Ken isn’t quite retiring yet and will spend two days a week working as a pharmacist for the new owners. But the first thing he is going to do with his new-found free time is buy a lawnmower.
“We have a big garden and I had to get people to cut the lawn as I never had the time. The first thing I am going to do is go and buy a lawnmower and cut my own grass.”
He also is going to renew his golf membership at Strandhill Golf Club, close to where he lives, spend more quality time with his father, Chris, and read more. He also will spend more time with his partner Jackie, his three children and her three children — the eldest of whom got married just over a week ago.