Rooted in Pharmacy

Published on 30 June 2017

David Norman ’67, R.Ph., was certain of three things growing up—he was not going to work in his family’s pharmacy, he was never moving back to Ava, Missouri, and he was not going to be a pharmacist. Young Norman could not have been more wrong about his future.

Ava Drug was established by Norman’s grandfather and father in 1950. Like many community pharmacies at the time, Ava Drug was host to more than just prescriptions. Complete with a soda fountain, the pharmacy was a hot spot in Ava, extending hours on Saturday nights to beckon moviegoers from across the street. Norman worked every Saturday alongside his father and grandfather.

“I worked at that drugstore so much I got sick of it and was sure I was never going to work in a drugstore again,” Norman recalled. “I wanted to be a basketball coach, but my dad was very much against it. He wanted me to be a pharmacist.”

Once Norman graduated from high school, he took a few years to figure out what direction he wanted his life to go. When he got married, he knew it was time to put his future into focus.

“I sat down with my parents and asked them what I should do next,” Norman said. “My dad said, ‘You know what you’re going to do? You’re going to go to pharmacy school, and you’re going to go to St. Louis College of Pharmacy.’”

Norman transferred to the College during his third year. He remembers how intimate his experience was, from the small student body to the personalized instruction from professors.

“The instructors knew everybody’s names,” Norman recalled. “There were only about 500 students at that time and only 73 in my class. It was very personal, more personal than a public college.”

After graduating in 1967, Norman moved back to Ava and would go on to partner with his brother, Steve Norman ’72, to purchase a pharmacy in Willow Springs, Missouri, from a fellow alumnus, Tom Ferguson ’49. Steve took over the operations of the Willow Springs pharmacy and David remained in Ava, working alongside his father and grandfather at Ava Drug.

“The job of running a pharmacy is not just filling prescriptions,” Norman explained. “The job is working with people. Whatever I learned about how to work with people and build those relationships came directly from working with my grandad and father.”

Over the next few decades, Ava Drug would undergo some major changes, namely removing the soda fountain in 1981 and changing owners to a fellow Ava pharmacist. After a few other business endeavors, Norman would eventually buy back Ava Drug and reinstall the soda fountain in 2005. The soda fountain was just as it was in the 80s down to the nickel ice cream prices.

Now the mayor of Ava, Norman does not practice pharmacy, though he keeps his license up to date.

“This little town doesn’t have a city manager, so I’m the planning and zoning head, building inspector, mayor and darn near anything else,” Norman said. “It’s a full-time job. Most of the things we deal with are people things. It’s very much like the drugstore at times, working with people and solving problems. That’s the job.”

This story was first published in the spring 2017 issue of Script. Visit to read more and access previous issues.

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