MANSFIELD - In what he called "one of the hardest decisions of my life," Robert Strong, pharmacist and owner of Coles Pharmacy "on the corner" of downtown will close its doors today after 112 years of continuous service to the community.
Strong, who has been a pharmacist for 47 years and has owned Coles since 1968, said he thought it was time to retire and "do some of the things I always wanted to do."
Undoubtedly some of those things include traveling to see his children and grandchildren, all of whom live out of state, as well as visit warmer climes.
CHERYL R. CLARKE/Sun-Gazette
Pharmacist Robert Strong stands behind the pharmacy counterof his store for one of the last times before it closes today.
Strong said he never will forget his first day at work after buying the store from Percy Coles and Webster English Nov. 11, 1968.
"There was a snowstorm that day, and I lived in Wellsboro at the time. I think I ended up staying at Percy's that night," he said.
The two men were gracious enough to stay on, at no charge to Strong, to help him "get off to a good start" for a month or two, he said.
At the time, Cooper's Sporting Goods occupied the storefront that later became part of Coles when he expanded the store in 1977.
For years, the familiar drug store has stood the test of time, offering at one time a soda fountain for customers to enjoy a cool drink while they were in town doing their business.
Strong said he appreciates all the "loyal customers and wonderful staff" who have "made it possible for me to be successful."
He also appreciates his wife, Bernadette, who he said "has been a wonderful support," but now, he said, it is time to start enjoying spending more time with her and his grandchildren, both of whom are nearly grown, he said.
He also plans to spend more time on the golf course and attending Penn State football games.
All of his existing customers' files will be electronically transferred to CVS Pharmacy in Mansfield, Strong said, and some of his employees may be able to work there, while others are retiring.
Strong assured his customers that, for a limited time, he will be involved with CVS operations to assure a smooth transition.