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Sterling Drug on track for March 1 opening

Kari Lucin/Daily Globe Brian Hagen stands Wednesday in the pharmacy window of the new Sterling Drug location.

WORTHINGTON -- For months, contractors have worked beneath the sheets of plastic surrounding Sterling Drug's new location at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 10th Street, preparing the building for its March 1 debut.

"We're really excited to be back downtown and to redevelop the downtown area," said Sterling Drug Pharmacy Manager Brian Hagen.

At 8,000 square feet, the new building will be smaller than Sterling's existing space in Northland Mall but larger than Sterling's old downtown building, which was purchased and renovated by Iowa Lakes Orthopedics.

The mysterious-looking sheets of plastic covering up much of the new Sterling's exterior aren't there to hide the building. Instead, they serve to keep the exterior warm so the stucco-like coating on it doesn't freeze while it's being applied. The cylinders around the building pump heat into it.

If the new pharmacy were being constructed in June, passers-by would be able to see scaffolding and parts of the building exterior, Hagen said.

Though the store's designs have mostly remained the same since the project's early phases, a few aesthetic changes have been made. Soffits -- decorative overhangs -- have been added to accentuate parts of the building's exterior, making it easier for customers to locate the cash register, prescription drop-off and prescription pick-up counters. Jennifer Christoffer, the project's interior designer, added the soffits and also created the color scheme of soft earth tones for the building's interior.

As yet, none of the earth tones have made it into the building. Most of the interior walls are installed, with some already covered with bright white primer. The drop ceiling hasn't yet been installed, but some of the soffits are already in place.

Some of the building's features are already visible. The pharmacy drive-up window in the back is more easily accessible than the one in Sterling's existing location. More parking will be available to customers and the building will have two large entryways in the front, one on each end.

The plan's biggest change has been the addition of a counter inside the building and a small patio area outside, where people will be able to sit and drink gourmet coffees and eat soup and sandwiches.

"That's new for us," Hagen said. "We don't have coffee where we are now ... it's a traffic-builder."

Expansions to the home health care area are also planned. More space in the new building will be devoted to durable medical equipment, including walkers, crutches, canes and specialized shoes for diabetics.

The back part of the building will include a storage area, office space and a consultation room, as well as a 900-square-foot long-term care pharmacy that will deal with nursing homes and assisted-living organizations directly.

The gift shop of the new Sterling will be smaller than that of the mall location, however.

"With the economy the way it is, it's tough to turn a profit in gifts right now," Hagen explained.

In the long run, Hagen expects to add to Sterling's staffing, but in the short run, the business may reduce its staff hours.

The pharmacy has also been redesigned, making it easier for patients to converse with a pharmacist.

"What I like about it is -- the pharmacy isn't hidden way back in the back of the store," Hagen said. "It's the centerpiece."