One thing you can’t help noticing when you sit in the office at Jerry’s Drug and Surgical supply store on Broadway is that the phone never stops ringing, and voices keep rising up on the intercom, checking orders or supplies.
Michael Bologh, who bought out his father in 2007 as proprietor, doesn’t seem to notice, keeping cool despite the immense activity.
“I think the biggest adjustment for me was multi-tasking. In a retail setting, you have to do 10 things at once. There are phone calls, people to deal with, employee issues, and so many things… I had to adjust to that,” he said. “In accounting, I had one problem at a time and saw it all the way through.”
From one glance at the front window of Jerry’s Drugs, you can tell the place is different from other drug stores: designer canes, a four-wheel power scooter for the disabled, lab coats complete with stethoscopes, printed patterned hospital gowns, a cushioned toilet seat and other items.
While inside, there are aisles of over-the-counter treatments for everything from eye strain to hemorrhoids, and a very active prescription counter. There are whole aisles and walls dedicated to items that aren’t normally found in such places: wheelchairs, a big selection of canes, doctors’ and nurses’ gear, scrub stops, blood pressure testing devices, sugar testing devices. There are also two full-sized living room-style armed chairs, deceptive items since even these serve a medical purpose: they’re loaded with electronic gear to help the disabled stand up.
Jerry’s is one of the areas largest suppliers of home medical equipment and supplies. And for as long as anyone can remember, there has been a Jerry’s Drug Store on the corner of Broadway and 21st Street.
Purchased by Michael’s father Ira in 1982, the store was located on that site at least 30 years prior to that, and is currently celebrating 80 years in business.
“My father worked in many independent pharmacies and CVS,” Michael said. “He always dreamed of owning his own business. Finally, it took him many years to find one, but he did. He had a nature marketing ability. He did a lot of advertising and had a lot of sales.”
Michael is not a pharmacist; he’s actually a certified public accountant who was eventually recruited by his father to join the family business.
“I was a CPA. He talked to me for years, trying to have me join him, and I wanted to work for myself, but this felt so much better helping than pushing numbers around,” he said. “Now I go out to facilities and measure people for wheelchairs.”
Michael grew up in Westwood and attended Pace University. He never thought he would end up in Bayonne.
“When I was in high school, I always thought I would have my own business and I thought this might happen with the CPA business,” he said. “I never had a problem dealing with people. I’m a people person.”
Michael started on in 1990 and was part owner in the company until he took over for his father in 2007.
When Michael joined, the store already offered surgical supplies, but Ira expanded the inventory, adding things like customized wheel chairs, power wheel chairs, and stair glides.
The store doubled in size in 1995, the same year it received accreditation.
“One of the projects I had started at the beginning was to get us accredited,” he said. “Pharmacies and medical supply stores can be if they choose, but I think we were one of the first in this area.”
At the time, this was a rare thing, but it was farsighted, since it would later become a requirement for a medical business that wished to accept Medicaid payments.
“I want every customer that comes in here to be greeted and cared for.” – Michael Bologh
“We go to most of northern New Jersey,” Michael said. “We work with a lot of different insurances and HMOs, different nursing services, especially a lot of rehab facilities. These days, you don’t go from the hospital to home. Hospital stays are much shorter and people need to go to a rehab first, and once they get to rehab, they need equipment.”
This means visiting these people to determine what equipment best suits their situation: do they need a wider wheel chair or a narrow one? There are safety issues, too, such as with the use of motorized chairs. Do they have the vision or the mental capacity to operate these?
“We let them try the chair for a few days under the observation of a physical therapist to see if it’s appropriate for them,” Michael said. “We also go to people’s homes to evaluate them. We’ll meet with them and go over their insurance.”
While Jerry’s does some business with hospitals, the store’s main focus is homebound people, and there is a growing need.
“People are home and want to be independent,” Michael said. “People are living longer.” This means they often need devices to help maintain their independence, including custom equipment.
Jerry’s has a loyal base, and Michael says this comes from the store’s long history being there, but it also has a strong focus on customer care.
“You always have an owner that’s here and watching, and I always try to find very good people to work here,” Michael said. “When I find someone that’s a good worker, works well with people, bring them on. I want every customer that comes in here to be greeted and cared for. If they have a problem, I want to find a solution.”
The future of providing people with independence
“When I looked to the future, I see an emphasis on independence,” he said. “People want to be independent in their homes, rather than in a long-term care facility.”
Jerry’s has a wide array of seat lift chairs, stair gliders, and other devices that provide people with the ability to function and get around that they might not otherwise have.
There is also a market for those outside of Bayonne, as Jerry’s recently provided some people in the Jersey City schools with wheelchairs.
“Some people have asked me about that,” he said. “I find it wonderful; I can help somebody make their life easier. I see a child struggling from classrooms, children who can get around independently and don’t need to be pushed.”
He has a different attitude about who he is helping.
“It’s not that we’re dealing with sick people. We’re helping people feel better about themselves,” he said.
The future, he said, involves a possible greater emphasis on prosthetics – a growing need as the population ages.
His son is currently in pharmacy school, making a third generation that will be involved in the store.
“My father taught me about patience, about the ups and downs of business,” Michael said. “This economy has been very difficult, not just on us, but everyone. My dad taught me how it works out in the end, to be patient. You can’t be anxious. Just take care of the customers and that’s taking care of business in the end.”