A new pharmacy in St. John is moving closer to reality.

Out of town trips to the pharmacy may soon be a thing of the past when a new pharmacy opens its doors in St. John.

Stafford County Drug will take up residence in St. John in the former AG360 Insurance building and provide in-town service in St. John and for the surrounding area.

Allison Freeze, one of four co-owners of the new pharmacy, said they would occupy the AG360 building just as soon as it was empty. Ultimately, the plan is to put the pharmacy in a proposed new grocery store. But because the need is so great, Freeze and her partners husband Cody Freeze, both of Pratt Medical Arts Pharmacy, and Lance and Sloane Freeman who own Hibbards Pharmacy in Medicine Lodge, are going ahead and open the pharmacy in the rented AG360 building until the grocery is built.

The pharmacy, a joint venture between the Freezes and Freemans who all have doctors of pharmacy degrees, will have to wait for the Board of Pharmacy to issue a license to operate out of the new location at 205 East Fourth Street in St. John. Licensure insurance contracts also have to be completed before the pharmacy can open.

Allison Freeze said it would probably take about 60 days to get the license once they have the building prepared. Once Stafford County Drug is open, there will be a licensed pharmacist and a technician on duty. Freeze said she would also be on-site to help with operations at the beginning. Hours of operation have not been determined.

The Medical Arts Pharmacy will continue to operate in Pratt. Many St. John and Stafford County residents already use the Pratt facility for their medical needs. If other people from the area want to get established in the Medical Arts Pharmacy, it will make it an easier transition when the new pharmacy opens in St. John. Medical Arts Pharmacy already takes care of Leisure Homestead residents needs.

But for now, they are anxious for the insurance building to become available so they get started on the building remodel.

"We're excited. We're ready to move forward. We're ready for the next step," Freeze said.

But this step is a temporary one because they want to move into the grocery store and that is moving one step closer to reality on March 31.

Carolyn Dunn, executive director of Stafford County Economic Development, said they will be closing on a piece of land this Friday. Once the land is secured, there is much to do to get the finances worked out and construction plans made.

There are still lots of variables and moving pieces but getting the land is a major development in getting a grocery store in St. John.

Some significant charitable donations, one from SJN Bank of Kansas and one other, have allowed Economic Development to move forward with the acquisition of land, Dunn said.

Besides the land purchase, an feasibility study will be done on fuel sales. From the data they already have, Stafford County has significantly less fuel sales than other counties of the same size.

The feasibility study is an important part of getting an operator. A grocery store operator has to capture business to succeed. Other stores like Dillons in Pratt that has groceries, a pharmacy and a fuel island, are successful and if the feasibility study shows the county is losing fuel sales, adding it will help make the grocery store more successful.

But for now, there is much work to do before construction can start on a new grocery store.

Dunn said it would take about seven months to complete construction. She hopes they can get the store open next spring.