Main photo by James Balston jamesbalston.com
Family Pharmaceuticals The success of Sefgrove Chemist is plain to see: a family-run business which celebrated its 40th birthday in May and plans to serve its community for decades to come e’re often pointing readers to the new rose in town – a cool cafe, a must-visit market – and perhaps there is a tendency to not bang the drum quite so loudly for the businesses that really make a community what it is. Alongside all the newbies stands a flourishing family-run firm: innovative since day one, exemplary in its commitment to serve the entire community and – some may say an unusual thing in this day and age – actively caring towards its customers. It was on 5 May 1976 that Kirit (pictured) and Daksha Patel opened up Sefgrove Chemist. Married only a few months’ earlier, the first years of the shop were not easy. But those early heady days, for marriage and business alike, were just the start and their decision to create a community pharmacy proved to be the right one for them and a fortunate one for those living in the area. The forty years which followed were recently celebrated when Daksha opened the shop doors – this time on 5 May 2016 and with daughter Shinali – to welcome in customers past and present and to share memories. Although Kirit sadly passed away in 2013, his presence was everywhere that day as people remembered this attentive man who, with kind laughter and professional warmth, had helped ordinary families with their sometimes ordinary, sometimes extraordinary, illnesses and difficulties for so many years.
People also remembered Shinali and brother Shilen (who now owns pharmacies in Balham, Tooting and Cranleigh) running around the shop as children. When both were teens their father stressed how important it was for them to experience other parts of the country, encouraging Shinali to first study for a Pharmacy degree in Liverpool at John Moores University, then to work as a locum throughout the UK for over 5 years. In 2008 Shinali returned to Sefgrove to work alongside her mother as Kirit had become unwell. This ability to understand different lifestyles, nurtured in her by her father, has stood Shinali in good stead ever since: it is this level of experience and support Sefgrove customers have come in search of in times of need. But these days running your own chemists is not so straightforward. With the government sending out cold, harsh emails announcing major cuts in the pharmacy sector and then responding coolly to the 1.8m signatures of those who complained about it, someone needs to start banging the drum a little louder. Sefgrove, like many good independent pharmacies, provides endless services (including flu vaccinations, free vitamin drops to the under 5s, stop smoking schemes, travel clinic and meningitis vaccinations to name but a few). All demand commitment from Shinali and her staff.