By Kathy Brown
“I look at the Higganum center, and only see the potential for a tremendous greatness,” explains Greg McKenna, pharmacist and owner of Nutmeg Pharmacy in Higganum. He went on to explain his vision, “to have a beautiful rural community be supported by a downtown that has the ability to provide for all the necessary businesses, in a very central location, and be so close to the Connecticut River, with a beautiful Cove, that could host enormous numbers of activities, provided that leadership leads the community to invest in itself now, and become something great in the years to come.”
McKenna had the wall torn down between the pharmacy and what had been HK Fitness in 2019 after HK Fitness moved out of the space. “I then enlisted the support of a consulting group, to provide me with insight on what businesses are needed by the residents in the town, assuming the town has provided the necessary structural components (i.e., sewer and water) for growth of businesses in the town,” explained McKenna. “The number one additional business needed by the town was a hardware store! The whole concept was to understand how you can begin to create a town that would be self-sufficient, and provide the job growth, and environment for our young people to stay and grow within the town.”
Now they have filled 2300 square feet with tools, hardware, and paint, and opened Higganum Hardware. The first day of business was Monday, Sept. 20, 2021.
McKenna explains his management strategy: “With Nutmeg Pharmacy, I have been trying to promote independent business ownership within the organization. I currently have pharmacist and technicians that have begun the ownership track, Taylor and Jarrett [Lemon] have been working with me for a number of years, they are homegrown Higganum residents, they went to school here, they grew up here as kids and they are personable, caring, and hard-working young men who are the very foundational building blocks for young people to have businesses within this town that are necessary for the next 40 years and beyond. It just makes sense! They understand that sweat equity not only builds business experience, but creates a value to what they are building.”
Taylor Lemon graduated from Haddam Killingworth High School in 2014. He has been working at Nutmeg Pharmacy for seven years. He started as an intern and gradually moved up to front store assistant manager (see this story). He attended three semesters of college but found that “retail was what I loved doing.” Taylor is now the manager of the hardware store. His brother Jarrett graduated HKHS in 2017, and has been working at the pharmacy for three and a half years. He started as a front store associate.
McKenna is hoping to find a space in town that is large enough that he can open up a new pharmacy with a drive through, at which time, the plan is for the Lemon brothers to expand the hardware store to fill the space currently taken up by the pharmacy.
“The reason for this [timeline] is the hardware store will take approximately two years to gain some traction and build enough sales so that it can take over the rest of the building,” explained McKenna.
“But it takes the community, to support this concept,” said McKenna. “Small businesses generate three times the income to a community. Small businesses spend their money in town, they buy groceries in the town, they go to the dry cleaners, they go to the restaurants! They get their haircut in town. There is so much more if we had it! I want to support this kind of growth for our young people, as this builds community, it builds responsible individuals, and sustains an environment that everyone really enjoys when they have it, but small town America is under pressure.”
“We see Amazon, but where do we see Amazon supporting the churches, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the schools, the football teams the soccer teams the cheerleaders; where is Amazon there?” asks McKenna. “That is why residents need to support the small business, because the owner takes their money last, the owner invests the money in the town that supports them! Taylor and Jarret Have worked with me for years, they understand this! It is in their fiber to work hard, stay in this beautiful town, and make it better!”
The long term plan is for the Lemons to buy out the hardware store from McKenna. “I am just helping get their sea legs in business, and then have them eventually acquire the business,” said McKenna.
The Lemons may not have hardware specific experience, but they have plenty of retail experience from their years of working at the pharmacy. “We are very open to suggestions and custom orders,” said Taylor.
Higganum Hardware has the same hours as Nutmeg Pharmacy: Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Sunday 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m, and Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.