Belhaven pharmacy moves uptown

Published 9:08 pm Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Belhaven’s family owned O’Neal’s Drug Store will be calling West Main Street and U.S. Highway 264 home Monday. The new location will open at 9 a.m. (WDN File Photo/Mona Moore)

BELHAVEN — At 1 p.m. Friday, a Main Street staple will close its doors.
After 80 years in the same location, O’Neal’s Drug Store will move from its 292 E. Main St. address to a newly constructed building just down the street at the corner of West Main Street and U.S. Highway 264.
The move is bittersweet for owner Neal O’Neal.
“I have mixed emotions. My grandfather started it in 1932 with $300 worth of inventory,” he said. “My grandfather, my father, my uncle and I have worked in there. My kids have run around in there all their lives.”
The pharmacy is almost like home to the O’Neal clan, but Hurricane Irene reminded them why moving was necessary.
“We’ve been flooded 12 times in 16 years,” O’Neal said.
Floodwaters should not be an issue at the new location. Thanks to new floodplain regulations, the building is nine feet and three inches above the flood plain.
O’Neal said he was glad to be moving to an intersection nearly everyone entering Belhaven would use.
He was also pleased the new building would have more accessibility for the handicapped and a much larger parking lot.
Unlike the original O’Neal’s, the new location will have a drive-thru, a sitting room and an immunization room.
The new O’Neal’s is about the same size as the old location, but the merchandise has been reset in order to offer a larger selection of products.
“We’ve increased our skincare line and we have a larger selection of medical equipment and first aid,” O’Neal said.
The company will take some of its 80-year legacy to the new location. O’Neal said photos of the original business will hang on the walls of the new location. If others have old memorabilia of O’Neal’s Pharmacy, O’Neal said he would love copies.
If he could, O’Neal would bring one more thing with him to U.S. 264. Since 1996, the family has marked flooding levels on a pole in the store.
“If we could cut it out and take it, we would,” O’Neal said.
The company completed a similar project at its Newport location last January. The Newport building is identical to the new Belhaven store. Each of the sites was built by Stocks & Taylor Construction of Washington.
“I can say nothing but good things about them,” O’Neal said.
The Chocowinity store recently adopted the O’Neal’s brand name. So far, there are no plans for additional locations or remodels.
“I’ve got to rest after two buildings in a row,” laughed O’Neal.