By  on June 6, 2008

GREENWICH, Conn. — Shoppers in this affluent suburb can get everything from penicillin to Botox at their local Harmony Pharmacy and Health Center.

At first blush, it's clear from the store's marble and onyx interior, offset with vibrantly colored bath and body items, that Harmony takes great pains to distance itself from the prototypical U.S. drugstore.

"People have a mind-set that when they walk into a drugstore the focus is on value and offering shoppers the lowest price. I wanted to create a model based on a high-quality assortment and high service," said Kenneth M. Corroon, Harmony's chief executive officer and director.

Why go up against chains as mighty as CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens?

"Americans are at the point where they'd like an alternative from the mainstream," said Corroon, a former investment banker. He continued, "Harmony is an alternative, just as Whole Foods [Market] is an alternative to Stop & Shop."

What's more, aside from this suburban location, Harmony's growth plan centers on opening units inside major airports, as the company has done in Newark Liberty International Airport. Corroon acknowledged that a number of European airports house pharmacies, and said Harmony seeks to improve upon the concept for the U.S. market with enhanced customer service.

Founded in 2005 by Corroon and chairman Howard Hertz, a Long Island, N.Y.-based physician, Harmony opened its first store in Newark Liberty's Terminal C in March 2007, followed by the Connecticut location in October. In September, it plans to open a third pharmacy in Jet Blue's Terminal 5 in John F. Kennedy International Airport in Jamaica, N.Y.

"We'd like to be in every major airport in the U.S.," declared Corroon, estimating there about 30 to 40 mid- to large-size airports in the U.S.

He said Harmony has the capacity to open 500 doors over a five-year stretch.

The company is funded by MVC Capital Inc., and it recently received an additional investment of capital, which Corroon said will help to launch the online business by yearend.

Airports, Corroon pointed out, are essentially micro cities with a captive audience. He noted roughly 24 million passengers pass through Newark's Terminal C each year, and the airport employs a staff of about 25,000. He anticipates that when its running at full capacity, roughly 20 million airline passengers will traipse through Jet Blue Terminal 5, which is slated to open this fall.In Corroon's view, any number of these passengers and airport workers may find themselves in need of Harmony's services, whether they've inadvertently left medicine behind and need to quickly fill the prescription, or find themselves with an ear infection and scratchy sore throat. A nurse practitioner on staff can tend to each scenario, said Corroon.

The typical footprint for an airport location is 1,100 to 2,000 square feet, and stores beyond the runway in the suburbs will likely range in size from 2,500 to 3,500 square feet, he said.

Unlike in the typical drugstore, sundries — ranging from diapers to cough and cold syrups — account for a mere one-third of the assortment. Using aspirin as an example, Corroon said the company pared the number of stockkeeping units to three from six items.

There is, however, ample space devoted to niche bath and body lines, including Santa Maria Novella from Italy, Korres from Greece and Mor Cosmetics from Australia. Other bath and body brands include La Source, Crabtree & Evelyn, Ahava, Dr. Hauschka, Mario Badescu and John Allan's. Harmony also carries cosmetics from Dr. Hauschka, Jane Iredale and Nouba.

Corroon has selected each brand — save for one brand, the whimsical pet grooming line Hot Dog. His criteria for choosing a brand is simple: It can't be a staple at department stores, like Saks Fifth Avenue, or travel retail shops and "It has to have some magic to it."

At the store here, the circular beauty counter displays vanity books, like "How to Be Lovely: The Audrey Hepburn Way of Life" and "Tiffany's Table Manners."

The tops of a number of displays are peppered with quotes, including one from Confucius: "Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it."

Referring to the front end of the store, Corroon said, "You have to walk through this elegant area to get to the pharmacy counter."

In Harmony's Connecticut location, to the left of the pharmacy counter shoppers will see promotional materials for light cosmetic procedures, complete with a framed sign that reads: "Look younger in just one hour."

"I just love this," said Terry Conrad, a nurse practitioner, whose photo is featured alongside the tag line. Conrad specializes in light cosmetic procedures like Botox, wrinkle fillers and peels, and spends several days a week seeing patients at the Harmony here. Twice a week she works in Manhattan with Park Avenue dermatologist Albert Lefkovits.Lefkovits' antiaging skin care products, called Alaur Skin Solutions, are sold in Harmony.

Conrad noted that cosmetic procedures were not initially part of Harmony's business model. Mini medical clinics were. But at the suggestion of Lefkovits, she approach Harmony executives with the idea.

She relies on word of month, including recommendations from several clients who work at the nearby hair salon Warren Tricomi. Prior to the procedures, patients are required to fill out a medical history.

"I'm very conservative," said Conrad of her approach, adding that she encourages patients to "dip their baby toe in first, try a little and see if they like it." She also schedules follow-up appointments after Botox and wrinkle fillers.

Corroon said the company will consider adding light cosmetic procedures to its airport doors, but added these services are a solid fit for Harmony's stand-alone stores, given Botox is now ubiquitous.

The services underpin Harmony's aim to redefine drugstores.

"Americans are at the point where they'd like an alternative from the mainstream," said Corroon. "It's why the concept of the local pharmacist has survived."

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