By James Niedzinski
---- — ROCKPORT — With necessary approvals in hand, a Rockport couple is moving forward with their plans to open a new, independent pharmacy on Main Street.
Blue Gate Gardens, the plant nursery and garden center will eventually become Sandy Bay Pharmacy in a change that received unanimous approval from town officials this week.
Rockporters Amber and Nenad Bazdar are not newcomers to the world of pharmaceuticals; Nenad has worked at the Rite Aid in Whistlestop Mall — about a 10 minute walk away — for about seven years.
Since his family moved to Massachusetts from Croatia 13 years ago, he has come to find his home in Rockport; he is a graduate of the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston. He came to America with his family in the midst of the Croatian War of Independence, which came to a close in 1995.
In Boston, Nenad got through pharmaceutical school with a limited understanding of English.
”He was learning pharmacology with an English dictionary,” Amber said.
Nenad’s mother was a nurse in Croatia and his father worked as a chemist dealing with medicine, he said.
When he met Amber, a lifelong Rockport resident, Nenad said he knew this was a community he wanted to live in.
”When I fell in love with her, I fell in love with the town,” he said.
The couple have three kids, two are in the Rockport Elementary school while the third is almost there.
The two said the permitting process in town does have a learning curve, but watching others approach the Planning Board and Zoning Board was helpful, as were residents and town officials in addition to the input of their own planners and engineers.
”It can be very labor intensive,” Nenad said of the permitting process.
Even with Rite Aid, Nenad’s former employer, just a short walk away and a number of pharmacies in Gloucester, including two CVS stores, a 24-hour Walgreens and others, the two still hope to bring something new to the table.
The two are hoping that a new community pharmacy, with closer ties to Rockport, will prosper.
The pharmacy, which will also sell medical equipment, will measure about 2,000 square feet on the first floor, the storefront, while the second floor, which will serve as storage and office space, will be about 1,000 square feet.
Amber had predicted at least one person would be speaking out against the proposal during one of the meetings with town officials.
”We were nervous,” she said.
Amber said the community is backing the project, and she is not the only one who thinks so.
Peter Bergholtz, who chairs the Board of Appeals said while not official just yet — some documents need to be signed and some time needs to pass — the board unanimously agreed to sign off on the project; it needed approval to operate as a pharmacy in a primarily residential area.
“All the testimony was favorable,” he said.
To better fit in with the houses along Main Street, the planned pharmacy will resemble a house more than a pharmacy.
The pharmacy will be able to open earlier or close later and offer services for emergency needs as well.
“We both felt, after speaking to members of the community, that Rockport could benefit greatly from a community pharmacy that is focused on its customers health and wellness and truly cares about the service we provide,” Amber Bazdar wrote in an email to the Times.
The two are finalizing the modular construction process and are hoping to have the pharmacy open in January.
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at email@example.com.