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Oak Bay Avenue family business marks 60 years

Tucker family’s Pharmasave a positive place, keeping clients, staff for generations
Jenna Tucker and her dad Jeff Tucker are the latest two generations to get in on the Pharmasave Oak Bay business. Jeff remembers riding bikes to make deliveries along with twin brother Tony, and Jenna continues to come back between each course of her education. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)

A thriving family business in Oak Bay celebrates six decades of success this month with what it does best – community philanthropy.

Roy Tucker earned his pharmacy degree at the University of British Columbia in 1955. The family business originated with his spring 1962 purchase of Newport Pharmacy at the corner of Newport Avenue and Windsor Road, and by 1981, the family was operating one of the first Pharmasave Stores in Canada.

Roy’s son Jeff Tucker still recalls those early days, he and twin brother Tony bombing around Oak Bay and beyond on a bike, making deliveries.

“I’ve literally worked here all my life,” Jeff said with a laugh. The shop celebrates 60 years this month.

As the business grew, Roy began looking for new digs. In 1977 he struck a deal with John Weicker, who was operating a pharmacy in Oak Bay Village where Pharmasave is now.

In 1985, Tony Tucker took over.

Pretty much every member of the family has worked in the store at some point.

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Jeff’s daughter, Jenna Tucker, has been an employee since she was 14 and continues as her education progresses –working off and on between phases. Next up she plans to take art therapy.

It’s not strictly a family business, but it has that feel, with some staff having celebrated over 25 years serving Oak Bay clientele on The Avenue, such as manager Jason Skrenka and cosmetician Nairn Wilson.

“People want to stay here,” Jeff said.

Jenna characterizes the husband-wife team of Tony and Karen Tucker as generous bosses, and part of the reason people stay on. Some staffers work alongside siblings or spouses. The longevity among staff means longevity and generational knowledge of the customers. At least one has celebrity status among patrons – pharmacist Gina Mihlay-Wolfe, for example, has a following.

Customers have stuck with them through the hard times, too. Jeff recalls that early during the COVID-19 pandemic, the lines to get into the store stretched back to Starbucks.

“It was important we got people in and out as quickly as they needed,” he said. For five or six months, sometimes in the cold and wet, he worked that line, pulling folks into the store as allowed to fulfill post, prescription and other needs.

The customers are not only loyal, but always looking for ways to give back, something the shop offers in a variety of ways. Fundraisers abound inside and its not unusual to find a youth group of some sort selling cookies or other goods out front of the busy shop.

A Pride fundraiser bake sale is already in the planning stages for the month of May.

Now through April 26, the shop hosts a silent auction to raise funds for those in Ukraine through the Canadian Red Cross.

To bid on baskets full of products donated by Pharmasave vendors – or check out all the available auction items – head into the store and chat with the cashiers at the front desk. Clients can also donate at the till.

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Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

Longtime journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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