About Island Drug
Businesses in old downtown Oak Harbor come and go with the seasons, but Island Drug,
one of the city’s oldest businesses, has stayed the course. It truly is a successful
business that continues to thrive.
A transition is taking place behind the scenes at the store on Pioneer Way. Customers
won’t notice the change, but over time, innovations planned for the store will be
felt and welcomed.
Bill Bulpin, 68, announced this week that Aaron Syring (pronounced Searing), 27,
has taken over as business owner with his partner Steve Oliva of Hi-School Pharmacy.
Under the agreement Bulpin and Syring will work together for the next seven years,
after which Bulpin will retire, having completed 50 years in the profession of pharmacy.
Bulpin came aboard in 1987 and has been running things with a tried-and-true business
“Look the customer in the eye, deal with them one-on-one and get to know them by
name,” Bulpin said. “Our customers love coming here because we’re like family. We
are their service and information center.”
Some worried big chain stores would devour small businesses like Island Drug. Not
this local independent!
“Ninety percent of people who walk into a store have insurance, and the co-pay is
the same no matter where you shop,” he said. “The difference at Island Drug is personal
They go out of their way to be flexible and professional, and they were the first
store to become CHAMPUS ( later TRICARE) specialists, making it easier for military
families to get prescriptions in town.
Special order or request? No problem. They’ll even prepare medicines for the family
pet. Of course the store will keep its popular drive-up prescription window. The
only such window on Whidbey Island, it is perfect for people with limited mobility.
Undaunted by the big job ahead of him, Syring radiates confidence. “It’s a great
opportunity,” he said.
The Woodland, Wash., native graduated from Woodland High School in 1995 and later
from WSU College of Pharmacy in 2002.
His wife grew up here and is a graduate of Oak Harbor High School Class of 1994.
Dr. Erica Syring DVM, works side by side with her father, Dr. Eric Anderson, at
the Best Friends Veterinary Clinic on Highway 20.
Syring plans to streamline business methods by better use of automation, expanded
compounding and adding an array of tests to help people reach their wellness goals.
Syring, a certified smoking cessation, immunization and specializes in health screens
of multiple disease state disciplines…such as lipids, triglyceride, body fat, and
osteoporosis… all tests that can be done in minutes. Bulpin is a certified diabetes
educator and oversees a Diabetes Shoppe inside Island Drug.
One of Oak Harbor’s largest employers, 27 people work for Island Drug, the J.C.
Penney catalog desk and Whidbey Wellness combined. Employees feel secure about their
jobs and are optimistic about the new management.
Syring can learn a lot from them, and from his mentor, Bulpin, who recalled how
worried workers were when he started at Island Drug on Feb. 16, 1987.
“I told them that “they all had jobs AND a 10% raise in salary”. Bulpin said he
believes employees are the heart of a successful business.
Rick Bulpin is one of the three pharmacists currently on staff. Rather than follow
in his father’s footsteps, the Desert Storm veteran will eventually pursue his interests
in consulting and gerontology.
Though new to town, Syring has promised to keep the store’s “neighborhood meeting
place” feel. His commitment is to help each customer find easy and creative ways
to healthier living.