Webber Pharmacy opened its first Mexico location 43 years ago, and through the years has found ways in which to financially support community projects. This is why Larry Webber, his children and staff will be honored Tuesday night with the 35th annual Commerce and Industry Award from the Mexico Area Chamber of Commerce.

Webber first became involved with the pharmacy industry through proximity. He lived across the street from one of Mexico's pharmacies when he was in high school. The owner walked across the street one day and offered him a job as a stocker and delivery driver.

"I was just starting my junior year of high school,” he said. “I kind of liked what they were doing, and I didn't know what else I wanted to do, so I thought, 'This is a pretty good gig, I'll try this.'"

Webber attended the St. Louis College of Pharmacy from 1964 to 1969, working after graduation at the then Audrain Medical Center and Mexico pharmacies.

"There was a lot of chemistry involved. George Craddock was the chemistry teacher at the high school at the time, and he was an excellent teacher,” Webber said. “My first year of college chemistry was basically what he had taught my senior year of high school."

His chemistry teacher helped bridge the gap between high school and college learning, he said. During college breaks, Webber would work for the then Lawrence Drug. He worked for that pharmacy from 1969 to 1971 before starting with Audrain Medical Center's pharmacy, now SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital–Audrain. He was there for five years before opening his first pharmacy in the Summit Street Medical Park.

"In 1976, a bunch of doctors were building a building out on Summit Street and I always wanted to own my own pharmacy, so I made a deal with them," Webber said.

He opened the first Webber pharmacy Oct. 8, 1976. The Summit Street location expanded in 1986, and the Webbers moved to their new location next to Moser's Grocery Store in 2014, 1101 W. Monroe St.

When Webber was approached by Roger Moser, he wasn't sure if they should open a second location or just move. The medical landscape was changing at the time, he said. Doctors in the Summit Medical park were retiring and also were doing less private practice, starting to work for hospitals and other large medical facilities.

"That made a big difference in that building on Summit Street because when Audrain Medical Center started employing physicians, they wanted to move them all to one location," Webber said.

The Webbers also manage Jackson Street Drug, A Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy and Parkway Pharmacy on Kelley Parkway, all in Mexico. Medicine Shoppe, which is a pharmacy franchising organization, approached Webber to take over a pharmacy, which Webber did in 1994. The Webbers purchased the assets of the Drive-In Pharmacy in 2010, and so combined the Medicine Shoppe and Drive-in pharmacies into the Jackson Street location. Webber’s wife, Laurann, was a pharmacist in her own right and managed this location. She died in 2014.

"We've been there since [2010] and I guess in January of 2017, the Arthur Center moved out to their new location and they wanted to put a pharmacy in, so we started talking with them and opened [Parkway Pharmacy]," Webber said.

Webber learned the family of pharmacies were being honored with the Commerce and Industry Award around six weeks ago, he said.

"It's a great honor. We appreciate it," Webber said, adding he didn't know who nominated the business. "We like to think we're a good community citizen. We like to think we do a decent job running a business, contributing to causes in the community. Maybe someone else thought the same thing."

The Webber family of pharmacies has made contributions to the Mexico Area YMCA, Presser Performing Arts Center, Mexico Senior Center, yearly toy runs, Simmons Stables restoration. Webber said he'd like to compile a list of the contributions his company has made to events and organizations.

"We like to think we're a good corporate citizen, a good community citizen. We just pride ourselves on supporting things that come along," Webber said. "We've been fortunate enough to make a living here, and we think we ought to contribute and give back to the community."

cdunlap@gatehousmedia.com