Business & Economy

Burlington’s Lakeside Pharmacy recovers from destructive 2020 fire

Kyle Maxwell, owner of Lakeside Pharmacy, stands in front of the drugstore’s newly painted mortar and pestle mural. Photo by Grace Elletson/VTDigger

Burlington’s Lakeside Pharmacy is back in business after last summer’s fire, which shuttered the drugstore at 242 Pearl St. for more than a year. 

It reopened Sept. 1 in a soft launch, and owner Kyle Maxwell said the day brought a mix of feelings. 

“I feel excited. I feel hopeful,” he said. “I feel a lot of emotion.” 

The pharmacy shares a building with Pearl Street Pipe and Beverage, which reopened earlier this summer. The July 1, 2020, fire originated in the adjoining liquor store. It was caused by an electrical problem. Maxwell’s pharmacy did not take much of the blaze, but his shop was ruined by smoke and water damage. 

“Being a medical setting, we figured that there have been people that have come in here that have advanced lung diseases, cancers, anything like that. So we weren’t going to risk the smoke affecting them and potentially creating a harmful situation for our patients,” Maxwell said. “So the whole thing got gutted.” 

Things are still getting up and running. He said the shop currently has a “dance floor” where household goods are usually displayed because his shelving units are on back order until February. But he’s excited that the renovations allowed the shop to offer some new additions. 

Lakeside can now ship drugs across Vermont with the addition of a pill packaging machine. Maxwell believes his is the only pharmacy in the state with one like it. He said he hopes the machine will allow his business to reach customers outside of Chittenden County — for instance, in the Northeast Kingdom or the Champlain Islands, where it might be harder to drive to a drugstore to pick up essential prescriptions. 

He said the pharmacy also added a new website and mobile app, both of which he hopes will make the prescription refill process easier. 

Maxwell, who is a doctor of pharmacy, and his wife, Michayla Maxwell, a nurse, opened the business in 2018 after buying it from another independent owner. The pharmacy has been family-owned since 1949. It’s one of only two independent pharmacies in Burlington and one of only a handful in the state, according to Maxwell. 

“We’re a dying breed,” he said. 

But the challenge of competing with corporate drugstores such as Walgreens and CVS has not dissuaded him. He said it’s always been a dream of his to open up a mom-and-pop pharmacy. 

He said he hopes that customers who turned to other pharmacies after the fire will begin coming back to his business, especially as he enters a legal challenge with his insurance company over renovation expenses. 

Lakeside Pharmacy was shuttered last July when a fire broke out in a neighboring business, Pearl Street Pipe and Beverage, causing extensive smoke and water damage to the drugstore. As of Sept. 1, it’s open for business. Photo by Grace Elletson/VTDigger

Maxwell said his insurers have said that not all of the renovations were needed because the pharmacy had only smoke and water damage — an argument Maxwell rejects because of the sensitive health conditions of his clients. 

“We really do need the support of the community to get back on our feet and really get back to our fighting weight that we were at before,” Maxwell said. “I’m confident in Burlington and knowing that people like to support their local pharmacy.” 

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Grace Elletson

About Grace

Grace Elletson is VTDigger's government accountability reporter, covering politics, state agencies and the Legislature. She is part of the BOLD Women's Leadership Network and a recent graduate of Ithaca College, where she was editor in chief of the Ithacan. She previously interned for the Chronicle of Higher Education, The Christian Science Monitor and The Cape Cod Times, her hometown newspaper.

Email: [email protected]

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