Ben and Lauren Ross started their time in Statesboro in a whirlwind — he took his boards on Thursday, they got married on Saturday, and after their honeymoon, he took over running Forest Heights Pharmacy.
The pharmacy was started in 2006 by Joel Sikes, who partnered with Ben to take over the business while Ben was still in pharmacy school. Sikes had found out he had cancer, and would no longer be able to run the business. So in 2008, Ben took over. Lauren worked as the school nurse at Southeast Bulloch Middle School at the time.
A second-generation pharmacist, Ben followed in the footsteps of his father, who ran Ross Drug in Sylvania.
Forest Heights Pharmacy has evolved over the years, adding a gift/apparel boutique, and employing about 25 people.
“We’re a team. Whether you work in the gift section, cashier, pharmacy tech or work in the compounding lab or delivery, or pharmacist, nobody is above anybody. We’re a team,” Ben said.
“We all pitch in and do,” Lauren added.
“We’re a family-run business and me and Lauren, we really view our employees as family. I spend more time with them than I probably do with my real family. We are really close knit,” Ben said. “We care for our employees. When our employees hurt, we hurt. When they have good things going on, we celebrate with them. We’re really big on that family atmosphere, that team atmosphere. We want to be there for them. That’s the culture we try to build here. We want people that want to come to work.”
Lauren added that they really want their employees to be happy.
“We want people here that love doing what we love doing. I think they get that and buy into that idea,” Ben added.
As for working together, the couple laughs when they say they keep to their own areas — she runs the gift shop, he runs the pharmacy. But they are quick to lend a hand to each other whenever needed.
The gift shop has been a little something extra, and it’s growing, Lauren said.
“The pharmacy was here first, and it’s what we’re built on. I try to think of the gifts and apparel as like an extra. When you’re here, it’s just something extra,” she said, adding that because of their location, they are that place that people can “run in and grab” gifts and those extra items, without having to go all the way into town.
Both Ben and Lauren feel the culture they have crafted at Forest Heights sets them apart.
“We love what we do. We love our community,” Ben said. “We care for our patients. Our patients are like family. We know them by their first name. We know their kids’ names, their grandkids’ names. We want to know that. We want to have that interaction. We’re going to do anything and everything we can to care for them. Putting the customers first and letting everything else take care of itself is the biggest thing that sets us apart.”
Additionally, Ben says the compounding and hazardous labs they have in place were a major investment for them, in order to maintain compliance.
“We’re heavily invested in that now. We’ve got a brand new lab. We’re completely compliant. Compounding, it was already kind of rare to find a pharmacy that was compounding. And they’re even more scarce now with the new regulations. But it’s just another way that we feel like we can offer that service to the customer and solve problems that other pharmacies can’t,” Ben said.
When they aren’t working, Ben and Lauren enjoy parenting their three children: Lanie, 8; Lucy Kate, 5; and Reid, who’s 1. The family is active at their church, First Baptist of Statesboro, and they spend a lot of time with dance and soccer, which Ben coaches.
“When we’re not here working,” he said, “We’re trying to be there for the kids.”
The Rosses were nominated by Ashley Anderson, who is the administrative manager for Forest Heights. Of her employers, Anderson says, “They are such wonderful, hardworking and giving people. They do not treat their employees as employees. We are treated like family.”
She also points to the couple’s love for their community.
“The love they have for their community spills over into their business, and you can ask anyone you meet. Ben and Lauren serve in different leagues and groups throughout Bulloch County. They are constantly giving back.”
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