This Elephant Asks, What’s Your Dosha?

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12/8/09 1:18 PM

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This Elephant Asks, What’s Your Dosha?

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Fred Mertz for The New York Times

A yoga class is led by Dah. By LAURA NOVAK Published: May 16, 2007

Berkeley, Calif. MENTION the name Elephant Pharmacy to people here and the response is, That’s the drugstore that prescribes yoga. In fact, Elephant Pharm, as it calls itself, offers a wide variety of alternative remedies — yoga perhaps being the most mainstream — besides traditional prescriptions. Such branding is invaluable to a small company like this, which is striving to carve a niche as the only drugstore in America thinking outside the big box.

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Elephant Pharm’s mission is to become a “natural community hub,” where conventional medicine meets other forms of health care, a combination that it says is not found in any other drugstore. “In the ’60s it was trendy to go to your herb shop,” said Kathi P. Lentzsch, chief executive and president of Elephant Pharm. “But this is more than a trend. This is going to be the drugstore of the future.”

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This Elephant Asks, What’s Your Dosha? - New York Times
Fred Mertz for The New York Times

12/8/09 1:18 PM

Elephant Pharm opened its first drugstore five years ago in Berkeley, on the fringe of the University of California campus, selling natural and alternative medicines, organic groceries and other holistic products. The store then became a template for two more emporiums that it recently opened elsewhere in Northern California, San Rafael and Los Altos (with another to open in Walnut Creek), as part of a nationwide expansion.
NEW AGE Kathi Lentzsch, head of Elephant Pharmacy, a California chain that sells alternative and traditional medicine.

The store was so-named because elephants are intelligent and caring, Ms. Lentzsch said. Its clients, she added, are well-informed baby boomers and mothers in their 30s and 40s. “Drugstores haven’t changed in 50 years,” Ms. Lentzsch added. “And if they don’t start to accommodate what customers are learning about on their own, they will lose that customer base.” The Elephant Pharm experience starts just inside the front door. Yoga mats, solarpowered radios and a two-speed “mind-expanding head massager” are displayed. A sign near the cashier asks, What’s your dosha?, referring to the three body types in ayurvedic medicine. The store offers up to 100 free classes a month, ranging from animal reiki to chi nei tsang, a form of holistic Taoist medicine. And for every two full-time Western practitioners, including pharmacists and registered nurses, there are three to four fulland part-time Eastern practitioners. Separate pharmacy counters emphasize the range. One fills standard prescriptions, including pet medicine. A second counter offers Chinese, Western and ayurvedic herbs. Separating them is a lending library and bookstore. Elizabeth Quarels, 29, who lives in Berkeley, switched from Longs Drugs to Elephant Pharm several years ago. On a recent visit, she watched an herbalist shake some calamus root into a plastic bag after weighing it. (Calamus, used as an expectorant and anesthetic, has been banned by the United States Food and Drug Administration as a food additive since 1968.) Ms. Quarels dropped it into her shopping basket next to other cold remedies. “I’m buying the Sudafed because I’ve only had moderate success with the homeopathic things,” she said. “I don’t have a systematic philosophy. I just think it’s really cool and neat to try to harness the energy of the earth to try to heal yourself.” Several large investors have aligned themselves with the store. Last fall, Elephant Pharm announced that it had raised $26 million in its third round of financing. Its largest investor and majority shareholder is the Tudor Investment Corporation. Neither Tudor nor CVS, one of Elephant Pharm’s earliest investors and the largest retail pharmacy chain in America with 6,200 stores, would disclose its contribution. But the Bay Area Equity Fund, a $75 million pot managed by JPMorgan Chase, said it had contributed $5 million to support the drugstore’s growth. “Baby boomers are not aging the way our grandparents did,” said Nancy Pfund, a managing director at JPMorgan Chase and a managing partner of the Bay Area fund. “They are looking for the advice and products that Elephant Pharm embodies. When people shop in Elephant Pharm, you hear people say, ‘Look at this and look at that.’ When was the last time you heard anyone excited about going to Walgreens or CVS?” Ms. Lentzsch said that CVS’s decision to support Elephant Pharm was strategic. “They could never do what we could do because they’ve got the big bureaucratic company that isn’t nimble,” she said. “It’s a whole different culture. How could they get to this level in
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This Elephant Asks, What’s Your Dosha? - New York Times

12/8/09 1:18 PM

isn’t nimble,” she said. “It’s a whole different culture. How could they get to this level in their stores? It would be very, very difficult.” Elephant Pharm said it had experienced double-digit growth in sales since it opened. Ms. Lentzsch said the Berkeley store was earning $1,200 per square foot. (The space is about 12,000 square feet.) Mitchell P. Corwin, an equity analyst for Morningstar, said there were 50,000 drugstores nationwide, with total prescription-drug sales last year of $275 billion. Chain drugstores make about 70 percent of total sales from prescriptions, Mr. Corwin said. But that figure is closer to 30 percent at Elephant Pharm. Ms. Lentzsch said the store’s success was linked to the items it sells in the front. While the buzz is positive, Elephant must still contend with consumer habits. “We’ve gotten many notices about Elephant Pharmacy, but we haven’t been inside yet,” said Dr. Jan Avent, a professor who lives in Los Altos. “It looks upscale from the street, but I so often try to either order my prescriptions or buy what I need at Whole Foods.” Ms. Lentzsch said she was proceeding cautiously with Elephant’s expansion. She added that she fielded phone calls daily from Manhattan and all over the world. “Until we get our prototype really finessed, I don’t want to roll out too far away from us,” she said. “But I never say, ‘No, we’re not going to open a store.’ I just have to tell them ‘not yet.’ I ask them to be patient, we’ll be there.”
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Tips To find reference information about the words used in this article, double-click on any word, phrase or name. A new window will open with a dictionary definition or encyclopedia entry. Past Coverage REMEDIES; This Elephant Asks, What's Your Dosha? (May 16, 2007) Related Searches Drugstores Yoga Medicine and Health

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This Elephant Asks, What’s Your Dosha? - New York Times

12/8/09 1:18 PM

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