Horton Brothers and Brown Pharmacy

Willie Patton, previous owner of Horton Brothers and Brown Pharmacy, with longtime employees Bobbi Puckett, and Sarah Caudill, in the pharmacy in Grayson. KEVIN GOLDY | THE DAILY INDEPENDENT

GRAYSON Look at the state pharmacy licenses behind the cash register.

Among the names at Horton Brothers and Brown Pharmacy on East Main Street in Grayson are William Andrew Horton, brother Elijah Horton and their nephew, Frank Brown. They won’t be there in person, but they’ve left a legacy — the Hortons opened the business in 1886, and Brown joined them in the 1920s.

Pharmacists Michael and Cindy Akers are the current owners. They bought the business from Willie Patton in July 2009. But why?

“That’s a good question,” Michael jokingly says. “It seemed like the thing to do. We were working (there) anyhow. You’re the owner of a business, you can kinda have more flexibility. So I thought.”

Sarah Caudill is a certified pharmacy technician, and she’s worked at Horton’s part- and full-time for well over 35 years. She’s more an office manager now who juggles seeing customers, keeping records, documenting everything and mollifying insurance companies’ anxieties – she says it sometimes feels like business people make medical decisions.

“Sometimes it seems like, as the deductibles go higher and the premiums go higher, it seems like the only people who are making any money are the insurance companies,” Caudill said. “You just have to be compliant to whatever the rules are. Insurance companies pretty much tell you what that is.” Jane Horton Wilhoit is the wife of Senior U.S. District Judge Henry Wilhoit. She’s also great-niece to Elijah Horton (Dr. Horton, her grandfather, passed away before she was born).

A memory: Mrs. Wilhoit said when customers placed orders, the Hortons or Brown would fill them – unlike today, when you have to fetch what you want and take it to the cash register. She said the inventory was different, too.

“They also back then carried wallpaper for you and maybe some paint,” she said. “ … People would wallpaper about every year because the coal got the walls dark.”

Cindy has worked at Hortons’ since 1993. Michael started at a national pharmacy chain in Flatwoods and later in Louisa. They eventually settled in Grayson because it was closer to Cindy’s job.

Michael and Cindy both graduated from the University of Kentucky’s pharmacy school in 1995. They steered away from the sciences in high school (Michael at Lawrence County, Cindy at West Carter) at first. “That’s all I did at West Carter,” Cindy says. “I did the physics, the anatomy, the biology, the chemistry, so I thought I’d try something else ... (At UK) I tried the sociology, anthropology, psychology, philosophy.

“I just ended up right back with my sciences, with my hard sciences. I guess it’s just because it’s all I’ve known.”

Michael was more a history buff in high school. He said Louisa pharmacist Sheldon McCreary helped create an interest in prescription drugs. “He had a good life because of pharmacy,” Michael said. “It was good to him, and you’re right there in the middle of everything, too, at the hub.”

Michael Akers says insurance companies are asking pharmacists to be more involved in patients’ therapy and outcomes. “Which is a good thing,” he says. “We have calls we make to follow up with people to see how they’re doing.” Ask either Akers which disease is most devastating, and they respond in half a nanosecond – type 2 diabetes. Michael sighs, perhaps because people don’t make healthy choices when it’s easy to eat more healthy food and exercise.

“People are just so set in what they do,” Michael said. “ … You’re actually in control of your health. We try to get ‘em to understand versus throwing more medicine on the problem. “Diabetes in Kentucky is such a catastrophe. Every day we have more new diabetics come in.”

Two years ago, the Akerses bought the land across the street from the old pharmacy, where William Horton’s home once stood, to build a new structure with a drive-through lane. Mrs. Wilhoit said William’s aunt, the late Thursa Ruth Horton, later lived there and taught piano until her passing in 1988.

“(Thursa’s) goal was to die on the piano bench,” Mrs. Wilhoit said. “Well, she didn’t die on the piano bench, but she did die in the room where she taught lessons that morning.”

Michael Akers says his family’s not leaving Grayson anytime soon (daughter Abigail is 16 and fraternal twins Tate and Brooklen are 12), and he needs just five words to tell you why.

“I’m the luckiest guy around.”

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