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Sidney Pharmacy changes ownership, but retains family tradition

First opened by Frances and Jim Brigham in 1959, Sidney Pharmacy is now part of Heart Pharmacy
Zahra Rayani-Kanji of Heart Pharmacy, Sidney Pharmacy manager James McCullough, and Naz Rayani, owner and founder of Heart Pharmacy, join sisters Becky Brigham and Judy Costanzo outside the business. Sidney Pharmacy has become the sixth Heart Pharmacy outlet in Greater Victoria after its purchase from Brigham and Costanzo. Their parents, Frances and Jim Brigham, first opened the business in 1959. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

From one multi-generational family of pharmacists to another – that is the path of Sidney Pharmacy.

The founding Brigham family handed over the business to the Rayani family, whose patriarch Naz Rayani founded the chain of Heart Pharmacy stores in the early 1990s.

“We are honoured to be taking the baton from them and take it into the future,” said Zahra Rayani-Kanji, Naz’s daughter and a pharmacist herself.

Her interview with the Peninsula News Review also included her father as well as Becky Brigham and Judy Costanzo, sisters who inherited Sidney Pharmacy from their parents, Frances and Jim Brigham, who opened the business in 1959 after having met in pharmacy school.

The change in ownership has inspired mixed feelings for the sisters. It gives Becky, 67, and Judy, 63, a chance to retire and eventually, hopefully, to fulfill their pre-COVID-19 plans of travelling.

On the other hand, it marks the end of a major life phase. “For both of us, it has been our life for 50 years,” said Becky. “We will miss the customers a lot,” added Judy.

Both started working in the pharmacy as teenagers with Becky eventually becoming a pharmacist like her mother and father who died in 1986, shortly after she gained admission to pharmacy school. The sisters became sole owners after their mother’s death in 2018.

For Zahra, this story has a familiar ring.

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Zahra and her brother Rasool (a social entrepreneur who also serves as president of Heart Pharmacy) grew up in the business. Like Becky, Zahra entered the profession after having pursued other career goals. “I was just graduating from pharmacy school, when he (Naz) had to retire because of a significant illness,” she said. “So we both had to step into the family business. We did it mindfully though. We had already made the decision to come in.”

These comparable narratives, even if they happened at different times, made it easy to establish a rapport, said Zahra.

“We can just empathize and relate a lot to the experience of growing up in a pharmacy,” said Zahra.

The two families could also relate to each other in other ways. Naz Rayani had owned Pharmsave Sidney in the mid-1980s before selling that store along with another store in Colwood that opened in 1978. In other words, the two families accounted for two of the three pharmacies serving Sidney at the time. “So we all shared,” said Judy. “We all got along so well. Everybody had their own little niche.”

Not surprisingly, it did not take long for the Rayani family through Zahra’s husband Farhan to reach out to Becky and Judy when word of their desire to retire made the rounds. Hours later, another interested party also approached them. Then COVID-19 hit, upending plans. But the connection remained. “I always left Farhan’s name and number up on my wall,” said Becky. “So I saw it every day.”

In the end, it was this familiar connection as well as the pharmacy’s connection to the community that made the difference for both parties.

“You are so committed to your customers,” Zahra told the sisters during the interview with the Peninsula News Review. “That is so easy to see and that is our ethos as well.” Until recently, the sisters helped the new owners with the transition .

“One day, when we are allowed, we are going to have a party,” said Judy. “We are kind of bowing out very quietly.”

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But that does not take the pharmacy’s place in the community and the new owners have committed to retaining its name.

Naz Rayani knows the feeling of saying goodbye. Born into the Southeast Asian diaspora of Kenya, Rayani studied pharmacy in Scotland before opening his first pharmacy in Nairobi, only to find himself in Canada, where he was involved in a number of pharmacies before starting what is now Heart Pharmacy with its six locations.

“I feel for the Brigham family,” he said. “They will miss their customers. I sold my pharmacy many years ago and I feel the same way. I had to say goodbye to all my customers three or four times in my life, so I can feel your loss.”

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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