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Know Your Madisonian: Cycling pharmacist dispenses community service

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Thad Schumacher

Thad Schumacher, owner of Fitchburg Family Pharmacy, was recognized last month with the Bowl of Hygeia award from the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin for his "sustained commitment to community service."

Cycling, community service and filling prescriptions — for Thad Schumacher, they’re all part of the family business.

Schumacher, owner of Fitchburg Family Pharmacy, was recognized last month in La Crosse, where he got the Bowl of Hygeia award from the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin. The annual award is meant “to recognize and honor a Wisconsin pharmacist who has demonstrated sustained commitment to community service,” according to the society.

Schumacher’s record of service is extensive. Most recently, his business partnered with the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County to collect and donate feminine hygiene products for use by students in need in Madison School District.

Schumacher also found a way to pair his passion for cycling with one of his business’ unique features: offering customers throughout the Madison area free delivery of their prescriptions. Schumacher often delivers them by bike and has dubbed himself the “cycling pharmacist.”

The free delivery feature has helped the pharmacy find a niche by cultivating a customer base in traditionally underserved communities, including people whose access to transportation is limited by their income, health or both.

Can you talk about how your business came to be?

In 2013, I knew that Fitchburg’s only community-owned pharmacy was going to close. It was bought by Walgreens and closed. It was here in the same mall that we’re in, in a different location.

So when I heard that happened, I took the opportunity to look into opening a store here. In 2013, we opened.

I run this pharmacy, like, the same as a small-town pharmacy would be run, even though it’s in a big city. You know, I post my cell phone number on the front door.

When we first opened up, I thought it was important that we offer delivery, and we committed to making it free. A lot of our fellow colleagues told us that that was kind of crazy.

You talk about being known as the cycling pharmacist — is that usually how you deliver prescriptions?

When I moved to the area in 2008, that (the popularity of cycling in Dane County) was one of the big draws.

I ride all the time. And I became friends with a lot of people who ride.

When I opened the store here, I actually ended up getting a fat bike in the middle of winter.

I’d lock it up out there on the sidewalk, and I had people come in and talk to me about the bike that had never come into my store.

I thought, if it’s getting that much attention just sitting out there, if I ride it to do my deliveries after work, it’ll spark even more interest.

Talk about how you’ve connected your business with some of the civic and community engagement and volunteering.

I was already serving as the chair of the Pharmacy Examining Board of the state of Wisconsin.

That’s been a rewarding experience. It definitely has gotten my name out in pharmacy circles.

Recently I was asked to serve on the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County board.

I’ve only been to one meeting, but it’s exciting. I think they do great work in the community, and it’s easy to get behind an organization that promotes children the way they do.

We raised probably about $18,000 over the last two years through donations from our customer base and friends and family for the (Bike for Boys & Girls Club annual fundraiser). And we have a team called the Fitchburg Family Pill Peddlers.

— Interview by Mark Sommerhauser

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