Established in 1962 by pharmacist George Browning, Browning’s Pharmacy and Health Care Inc. is now owned by his CPA daughter, Colleen Hunter. “I was always into math in high school so I became a CPA. I never even thought about working here until my father’s accountant kept bugging him. [My dad] did everything – ran the pharmacy and also did the books. Finally, a couple of years out of college, he asked me (to work),” Hunter said.
The business started on Hickory Street near Holmes Regional Medical Center, just as a pharmacy, she said. “He had a little over-the-counter stuff. He wanted a computer in the 1970s and he found out that it was going to take $800 or $900 a month to lease one so he decided, in order to make enough money to get the computer, he would have to start selling other stuff so he started to dabble in walkers and other supplies,” she said.
Browning bought multiple lots at 141 E. Hibiscus Boulevard where the business now occupies a 27,000-square-foot building. Total staff numbers have grown to 62, including a six-person operation for custom wheelchairs in Orlando. “The whole bottom story is a sales floor and pharmacy; the top floor is mainly offices, billing and storage. It is not a typical pharmacy. We sell a lot of unusual things including HIV drugs, but we also have a full respiratory business, with oxygen, and have our own wheelchair department we call rehab. It’s mostly a senior market but even children have accidents and need their crutches and braces. We don’t just sell one thing. We don’t just do wheelchairs. We branch out. We even did van conversions for a while,” Hunter said.
Continued success for a family business, Hunter says, is challenging but possible by doing things the old fashioned way: taking pride in your work and reacting to customer needs. Her brother, Kevin Browning, also works at the business. “I’ve done research on sustainability from generation to generation, especially family businesses, and the longer it goes, the worse the percentages are that they’ll succeed.”
“We just keep our eyes open, keep diversified, and keep the customer serviced, not that it’s always perfect for everybody. Everyone who comes through the door has a question and needs something answered. When you come here, you assume you are going to get some information and some questions answered. There’s always something that goes out-of-date and gets better,” Hunter said.