Acclaimed entrepreneur, activist built legacy of 20 years of success
A couple a weeks ago, much of the community was stunned with the announcement by Gene Butler that he had sold Community Care Pharmacy—which he had built into a cornerstone of the Lafayette Medical Center on the corner of Lafayette and Pontiac streets. During the past 20 years, Butler built Community Care into the epitome of a business that put customer care and real community involvement at the core of its existence. He did all that while raising a family, being involved heavily in a number of service organizations and being active in his church. But after being constantly busy, including devoting nearly all of his weekday time to running a business, Butler said recent events in his and his family’s life and the season presented an opportunity to make a need change.
For example, earlier he had had hip replacement surgery which caused him to have to take time off. More devastating was the illness and eventual passing of his mother, Dorothy Mae Butler, in Grand Rapids, Mich., from whence Butler and his wife Raejeanne hail. Gene Butler admits that took a toll on him because his mother was always the pillar of his life, including during his pursuit of an education and his eventual rise in business and in community involvement.On the other side of the coin, his daughter Simone just earned her master’s degree out east and has been accepted into a doctorate program. He said all that made him want to spend more time with family including his older relatives and his daughter. He said he also wanted to take off time to rest and relax. All that, coupled with the fact that Walgreen’s made an offer to buy Community Care that Butler said met conditions he always would have asked for before selling his business, made this an opportune time for Butler to retire.
“After 20 years, closing the pharmacy came at a good time,” said Butler in a note in a booklet celebrating his two-decade run in business. “My 20 years at Community Care has been a tremendous experience.”
During the past couple of weeks, Butler and his loyal staff have been transferring records to Walgreen’s and talking to his former patients to help both customers and Walgreen’s to make the transition. While his former customers have the right to go anywhere they choose now that Community Care is closing its doors, Butler is recommending they move over to Walgreen’s because part of the sale agreement is that they continue to treat Butler’s patients with the same care and respect as the staff at Community Care them. Meanwhile, Butler will be at Walgreen’s on the corner of Creighton Avenue and Calhoun Street a number of hours each week for a while to help with the transition. Officially, Walgreen’s has taken him on as a consultant, a role Butler said he plans to be fulfilling for some time—even after the two month-long vacation he and Raejeanne plan to take during which time Butler said the couple would travel to see relatives and to just plain rest.
After that, Butler said he plans to come back and be involved in a number of “other” ventures—including community advocacy and perhaps teaching. He’s already had an offer from an area college.
“You haven’t seen the last of me,” said Butler, with his characteristic smile.
Even though he’s ready to move on to other ventures in life, leaving Community Care wasn’t an easy decision.
“My staff has been in tears over the closing, but, like I told them, life is about constantly changing and growing. I’ve had an incredible journey with Dr. (Al) Stovall and the other doctors. And, with my customers, who embodied the meaning of loyal,” said Butler.