Over the years, Marlace Hughes had thought about owning Ray’s Pharmacy. And after it unexpectedly became a reality seven years ago, it’s where her heart is.
“I love being a small business owner and serving the community on Orcas,” she said.
More than a decade ago, Marlace met her future husband Rick at Ray’s Pharmacy. He was visiting his father, who made the fateful introduction.
Marlace later moved to San Francisco, where Rick was working for ESPN. Before she left Orcas, Marlace told pharmacy owners Jack and Robin Becker: if you ever want to sell, give me a call.
Several years later Rick quit his job, and the Hughes came back to the island for a brief respite before considering a move to Seattle.
During that time, the Beckers took Marlace up on her offer and asked if she wanted to buy the pharmacy.
“We thought it would be a great experience to raise a family on Orcas and run a business that will help the people of Orcas Island,” Marlace said. “And we saw potential for growth … It’s pretty funny that now we own the business where we met.”
Since purchasing Ray’s, Marlace has increased inventory, expanded the toy room, listened to customer input for needed items, expanded and modernized the pharmacy department and added insurance plans so more islanders would have prescription coverage.
In addition to prescriptions, supplements and vitamins, the pharmacy has a wide array of health and beauty products, jewelry, candles, housewares, clothing, shoes, candy, specialty chocolates, wine, cards and gifts for just about any occasion.
“We want to be one-stop shopping for people,” she said.
Marlace says customer service is a key part of her business philosophy – it is critical to build a loyal customer base to carry them through the lean winter months.
“Good customer service is what keeps people coming back,” she said. “We are grateful for our year-round customers. I hope everyone supports local businesses because it is so important to local economy.”
While Rick has lent his support along the way, the business has always been Marlace’s venture. She oversees 14 employees and says having a great staff is key.
“Our goal is to have one big family where everybody helps each other out,” she said. “I am so appreciative of my staff.”
When she is not busy running the pharmacy, Marlace is enjoying her 10-year-old son Ricky. Rick was elected to the San Juan County Council two years ago. Marlace says he has wanted to be involved with politics for a long time.
“We have been very fortunate that everything has fallen into place,” she said.