Hometown pharmacies in Mercedes mean featuring orange-and-white themes and a community’s love for high school football.
At Mid-Valley Pharmacy, a Mercedes Tiger football helmet sits up high on a main counter. Around the corner at Coach’s Pharmacy on Texas Avenue, the pharmacist is a former football coach. He also wears something orange to work every day.
The down-home connections are especially pertinent these days. Customers throughout the Mid-Valley depend on these two pharmacies to get them their medications. They also receive informed health care advice and encouragement via social media.
The two Mercedes pharmacies come from a place close to home. Three former H-E-B pharmacists own and run Mid-Valley Pharmacy along Expressway 77/83, just east of Texas. John Hinkle, Robert Zamora and Adrian Cervantes took knowledge and experiences gleaned from working for the grocery company to open three pharmacies in the Rio Grande Valley.
The three pharmacists own the Mercedes pharmacy, and Zamora and Cervantes own pharmacies in Harlingen and Raymondville. The Mercedes pharmacy along the expressway in the heart of the Valley is ideal. It opened in September 2018 with support from the Economic Development Corporation of Mercedes. In person or online, the pharmacy and its staff offer a range of advice and assistance, including tips on best supplements and vitamins to take during the pandemic.
“We try to do the little things when the community says they need something,” said Hinkle, a Harlingen native. “Hopefully, we’ve made this place a little better.”
The pharmacy is following in the path of its original owner Roberto Villarreal. His photo hangs in the main lobby as a tribute to its original location in Mercedes on Business 83. Most of the pharmacy staff is from Mercedes and some worked for and knew Villarreal.
“Most of us are from the area, so keeping the community healthy and providing the care they need to reach their health and wellness goals is our top priority,” said Mid-Valley pharmacist Ariel Champion.
Aspiring To Do More For The Community
That same theme of being a community-owned pharmacy is evident when walking into Coach’s Pharmacy. Gilbert Gomez grew up a Mercedes Tiger and played football at the old stadium by the livestock show grounds. He went into coaching and teaching after college, saying, “everyone I knew figured I’d be a coach.”
At 34 years of age, though, he wanted more and not just the expectations that had settled over the years. He went to pharmacy school at Texas Southern University, using his savings and retirement to help pay for his education. Gomez came back to the Valley after pharmacy school. His first pharmacist job was in Weslaco. Gomez was ready to set up his own business after a few years, and no place but his hometown would do.
At grocery stores and other public places, Gomez found people still called him “coach,” and so it was a natural fit to go with Coach’s Pharmacy. Mercedes Tigers T-shirts are readily found at the pharmacy along with a pharmacist who was once asked, “Do you wear orange to work every day?”
“I did wear a black shirt to work one day, but my pants were orange,” Gomez said with a smile, staying true to the local high school’s colors.
The community touch at Coach’s is evident on its Facebook page where it offers free masks to customers who are 60-plus years old. A customer sent a message saying she needed a face shield. Assistance came from the pharmacy staff to help with the order and deliver it to her.
“We know the people and we’ll take the extra step to help them,” Gomez said. “Mercedes is a family place.”