Burns Drugs to close its doors after 62 years in La Jolla

Burns Drugs will close its door next month, after more than six decades in business on Girard Avenue. Pat Sherman photos

By Pat Sherman

Customers of one of La Jolla’s oldest independently owned retail stores, Burns Drugs at 7824 Girard Ave., are devastated to learn that the pharmacy their families have relied upon for more than six decades is going out of business.

Burns Drugs co-owner Wayne Woods said the pharmacy counter will fill its last prescription on April 15. The store will stay open until sometime next month to sell off its remaining inventory.

“It saddens my heart that this is happening, because this has been one of the cornerstones of the La Jolla shopping experience,” Woods said, noting that many high-profile La Jollans preferred the anonymity of a small community pharmacy. Burns’ clientele has included everyone from Costco founder Sol Price to Helen and David Copley, Theodor Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Suess), famed French sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle and baseball legend Jerry Coleman.

“I’ve been here 23 years, and I’ve watched families grow up, watched their children grow up,” Woods said. “The same people have been coming in day-in and day-out. I know them by their first name. They know me.”

Woods' wife, Linda, also a pharmacist, worked in the store for 10 years, as did his daughters, Lindsay and Kaitlin, learning how to ring up sales, answer phones and interact with customers.

Burns Drugs employee Liz Nelander, owner Wayne Woods, and employees Liz Rogers and Nicole Caulfield share memories of their time working at the beloved, dog-friendly community pharmacy. Pat Sherman photos

In a letter to customers, Woods said his impending retirement and the financial viability of an independent drug store on Girard Avenue were the driving forces behind his decision.

Prescription records for Burns customers will be transferred to CVS Pharmacy at 7525 Eads Ave. Woods said CVS management has promised to provide the same high level of personalized care, including Burns’ house charge program and local delivery service.

Through an agreement with CVS, many of Burns’ 38 fulltime and part-time employees have been offered jobs at CVS.

“You will continue to hear familiar voices on the phone and see familiar faces at the prescription counter (there),” Woods assured his customers, adding that serving the community has been “a dream come true.”

“You are a small town full of great people,” he wrote to customers. “My family will miss your family. When we meet on the sidewalks of La Jolla, I hope to embrace you as you have embraced the Burns Drugs family for so many years."

During a recent visit to the shop on Friday, April 4, plush Easter bunnies and other seasonal gifts lined shelves as customers wandered in and out, many yet unaware of the impending closure.

“This is really sad news — sadder than sad,” said longtime customer Charlotte Baum.

(l to r): Former owners Orrin Gabsch and Art Keever; founders Bob Burns and Strother Kay; current owner Wayne Woods and Jack Novak in 1991.

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