But that first morning was especially difficult: “That’s when I was ready to throw in the towel. … You know you work so hard. You try to serve the public. … Pretty devastating.”
Gradually, his outlook changed.
He explains he first had to forgive the criminals: “I’ve been forgiven much, so I think it’s easier for me to forgive much. … If I withhold it, that doesn’t seem right.” He’s grateful no one hurt his employees or clients.
He’s quick to say he doesn’t condone the violence: “The behavior needs to be dealt with justly.” He’s appalled at what happened to George Floyd but says no cause warrants wanton destruction. (Police have made no arrests yet in connection with the pharmacy fire.)
Lloyd’s has served customers of varying races for generations and has had three owners since 1949. It has been a pharmacy since 1918 when Florian Ritschel, son of German immigrants, bought the 1914 building and started Florian’s Pharmacy. The store is a block from Hamline University, the oldest university in Minnesota.
Stage, 38, grew up in this historic neighborhood, and his family bought medicine from Lloyd’s. He completed his university internship there. After employment for two years at a chain drugstore, he worked for an independent pharmacy in Rochester, Minn., for the same man who owned Lloyd’s. Stage told him he wanted to return to St. Paul and buy Lloyd’s. Six years ago he did.
Before the fire, Lloyd’s was not only a retail pharmacy but housed the Menopause Center of Minnesota and a state-of-the-art compounding lab to make prescription medicines not available commercially. The pharmacy and lab served about 8,000 patients, employed 37 people, and filled roughly 500 prescriptions daily. Long-term care residents, assisted living homes, and mental health facilities depend on Lloyd’s for regular deliveries.
Some customers have come to Lloyd’s for 50 years. One family brings treats for staff almost weekly. Another customer, Richard Virchow, 46, spoke to me from his wheelchair: A Lloyd’s patron for 10 years, he says the pharmacists know him by sight, talk to him like family, and can make up special medicines for him.
When Stage’s business partner Phil Hommerding started a GoFundMe page to help rebuild Lloyd’s, contributions and comments poured in. “Three generations of my family have been well served by Lloyd’s Pharmacy. … Blessings for the future,” one person wrote.
Right after the fire, Stage’s biggest hurdle was figuring out how to keep customers supplied with needed medicine. Committed Lloyd’s employees moved 5 miles north to Setzer Pharmacy, another of Stage’s independent pharmacies. Space behind the counters is crowded with pharmacists from both stores now, scrambling to fill twice as many prescriptions for the shop’s doubled customer load.
Thanks to a Minnesota Board of Pharmacy regulation, pharmacists can provide short-term prescriptions to clients under certain emergencies. That was vital because it took two weeks before Lloyd’s could access client records again, according to Anstett.
While hoping to rebuild soon with the help of insurance, Stage plans to open a temporary satellite pharmacy in July two buildings away from his burned-out shop. He says God providentially provided the fully functional retail space complete with parking when he rented it over a year ago for eventual extra storage: “I know now why I got that lease, but I never realized I’d need it this soon.”
Stage says he’s watched God’s plan unfold throughout his life, and that night in May was no exception. Even if he has no idea why his pharmacy burned down, he laughs and says he keeps learning God always has a good plan: “He is the God of restoration. That’s something He’s in the business of doing, and He wants that for everybody.”