When Pam Ledbetter joined the Vanjon’s Pharmacy’s family, owner Vanjon Ward expressed one wish to her.
“He told me he wanted his son in here one day,” she said.
That wish came true last summer when Vanjon’s son, Wade Ward, invested into his late father’s business and purchased back the family business.
“I am glad it has come back full circle,” Ledbetter added, looking over at Wade sitting inside Vanjon’s Pharmacy on Fifteenth Street in Yazoo City.
Partnering with a handful of others, Wade took control of his father’s pharmacy on June 1, 2020.
“It is amazing that God has allowed me to be a part of stepping back under what Dad started,” Wade said. “I am very humble and thankful.”
Although Ledbetter is retiring, she will remain with Vanjon’s for a few days a week. And Wade and his business partners have a lot in store for the business, all while maintaining the familiar faces and hometown service that has remained solid with the pharmacy over the years.
Wade was 16 years old when his parents Vanjon and Virginia Ward purchased the pharmacy. With the assistance of local banker Frank Petty, affectionally known as Uncle Frank to the Ward family, Vanjon’s Pharmacy was born.
“Dad was working across the street at the pharmacy under the clinic of Dr. (Marion) Sigrest and Dr. (Will) Thompson,” Wade said. “There was an old pumping station here where the pharmacy stands now. Dad was actually out of the country when the property came up for sale.”
And Uncle Frank went to work.
“Frank got word to Dad that the place was up for sale,” Wade reflects. “They made a deal right there over the phone. Frank joked with Dad and said, ‘just don’t die before you get home and sign the papers.’”
Vanjon’s Pharmacy opened for business and became a staple within the local business community for years. Virginia Ward would even open a gift shop adjacent to the pharmacy.
Ledbetter would soon join the Vanjon’s family and began working at the pharmacy as she finished her pharmacy school requirements. Wade would also help with the family business with deliveries, sometimes working on the weekends.
“This pharmacy was the center of our family,” Wade said. “My parents owned it, and my grandparents lived two blocks down the road. This place was a hub of activity for my family while I was growing up.”
When Wade’s parents passed away, “Uncle Frank” returned with a solution.
“Frank was the glue in representing my family and Pam in her purchase of the business,” Wade said. “Frank helped everything come together with Pam becoming the new owner. She faithfully ran the store and maintained the business model my parents created.”
Ledbetter purchased Vanjon’s Pharmacy in 1986.
Life continued for Wade, who soon entered the medical supply business with Andy Edwards in Jackson. The business supplied medical supplies to nursing homes and home health agencies.
In fact, it was with Andy’s brother, Aaron Edwards, that a new chapter opened to invest back into Wade’s hometown of Yazoo City.
“I started working with Aaron, and we became aware of an opportunity to reinvest in Yazoo City with Simmon’s Tire,” Wade said.
The team purchased Simmon’s Tire upon the retirement of longtime owner Bill Simmons.
“It reignited my love for Yazoo and its people,” Wade said. “Pam and I maintained a long relationship, and when I saw her at a funeral, she was talking about retirement. The pharmacy was a place near and dear to my heart so I started talking to Andy and Aaron about getting back into the family business.”
“Uncle Frank got involved again,” Wade added, with a laugh. “He came back as that glue. There were only a few at the table, and he was one of them.”
Aaron spends a lot of time in Yazoo City, balancing his time between Simmon’s Tire and Vanjon’s Pharmacy. And Wade takes a personal commitment to the operations with his hometown ties.
“God has blessed our partnership and friendship, and we have the sense to keep investing in Yazoo City and its business community,” Wade said. “It wasn’t a door I was looking to walk through, but those doors opened. And it was a very natural door. It was what Dad had talked about before he passed.”
Many elements remain in Vanjon’s Pharmacy; familiar faces and solid customer service. But there have been and will be some changes to move toward the future business model. The pharmacy now has a drive-thru available for its customers.
“The world has changed, and we were looking at other methods to allow customers to get their medicines safely,” Aaron said. “We still can assist with insurance questions and other services. We are continuing those same practices that made this pharmacy successful. That’s what we were, and we have to continue.”
Wade’s primary objective is to encourage Yazooans to shop local. Whether it be with Vanjon’s or other locally-owned pharmacies, he urges customers to see the value in small businesses and locals who care about them.
“Our sincere desire is for people to shop local,” Wade said. “Support our local people. It is important for us and for this town.”
“The big box chains may not have the services people need,” Aaron added. “We, as well as other local businesses, can give you better service. Small businesses help small towns because you are helping your neighbors.”
Big plans are also in the works for Vanjon’s Pharmacy. With ties in the medical supply business, Wade hopes to offers those services in Yazoo City.
“Yazoo City needs a durable medical equipment community with local companies to go to,” Wade said.
Wade and Aaron both said you can go to WalMart and purchase a wheelchair in a box. But their goal is to have an outlet with more personalized service and to assist with filing insurance. It’s a service you can’t find in the big box chain markets.
Familiar faces also remain at the local pharmacy. Ledbetter will return for a few days a week. Manager Sissy Tyson and pharmacist Christy Baker are now business partners. And Toni Killens will serve as a pharmacy technician.
“There are a lot of ties still here,” Wade said. “These people walked before me and will walk with me. This is such a humbling experience for me, to have this opportunity under the banner that God allowed my Dad to fly years ago.”