Paul Tam: Independent pharmacy’s focus on customer

Paul Tam, president and owner of Evergreen Health Mart Pharmacy at Geary Boulevard and 20th Avenue, has been with the company for more than 25 years. Evergreen, one of the few remaining independent pharmacies in San Francisco, has served The City for 95 years. In March, Tam helped shepherd the deal that made Evergreen one of the 1,300 independent franchise pharmacies overseen by Health Mart.

Running an independent pharmacy in San Francisco is becoming increasingly difficult, Tam said. Fifteen years ago, San Francisco had 300 independent retail pharmacies; today there are 50. According to Tam, Health Mart may help Evergreen remain open.

“It’s a very challenging environment,” Tam said. “There are different customers every day with different prescriptions.”

At 3,800 square feet, Evergreen is the largest independent pharmacy in San Francisco; at eight employees, its staff is tiny.

“We give out the best service,” Tam said. In the 25 years Tam has worked with Evergreen, he estimates they have had 10 to 25 customers who have been with them the entire time and 300 to 400 total customers. In addition to providing the usual drugstore services, a grocery and gifts and cosmetics departments, Evergreen provides after-hours delivery service and language support and signage for Cantonese-, Mandarin- and Russian-speaking customers.

Health Mart provides private label medications, advertising matching funds and an online marketing tool kit. Health Mart helps small independent pharmacies increase their purchasing power to get better bulk rates on drugs, as well as speed up the reimbursement rate from insurance companies. Health Mart also hosts in-store health and wellness events, and provides a 90-day out clause — at any time, with no penalty.

Health Mart is owned by McKesson, a national health care services and information technology company headquartered in San Francisco. To participate in the Health Mart franchise, pharmacies pay a small monthly fee that is not associated with revenue and must accept help with merchandising and advertising. In the last 10 months, Health Mart has grown by nearly 400 percent, making it the fastest-growing pharmacy franchise in the United States.

Tam earned his Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of the Pacific in Stockton in 1974 and is a member of the California Pharmacists Association.

For more information about Health Mart and McKesson, visit and


New project: I will be updating my pharmacy computer system and adding a new point-of-sale machine

Last project: Joining Health Mart

Number of e-mails a day: Several

Number of voice mails a day: Not many

Essential Web site:

Best perk: The satisfaction of working in a wonderful community

Gadgets: Dell computer

Education: Doctor of Pharmacy, University of the Pacific, Stockton, 1974

Last conference: The San Francisco Pharmacy Association conference

First job: I was a waiter at a Chinese restaurant (don’t remember the name)

Original aspiration: To be a soccer player

Career objective: My objective is serving the community


Age: 62

Likes: Family and sports, especially soccer, football and water-skiing

Dislikes: Lazy and dishonest people

Defining quirks: Washing cars on Sunday

Hometown: Since 1974, San Mateo; I was born in Hong Kong.

Transportation: Toyota truck

Favorite restaurant: Home cooking; my favorites are beef, vegetables and fish

Vacation spot: Anywhere my kids want to go; I next want to explore Europe and Asia

Favorite clothier: What my wife buys

Role model: My parents, wife and children

Reading: San Francisco Examiner, the Chronicle, Sing Tao and pharmacy magazines, especially California Pharmacist

Worst fear: My computer breaking down and the Raiders leaving Oakland

Motivation: My family

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