The 2019 Mel Bedwell Small Business Person of the Year clearly reflects the commitment to customer service and community that earned Jeff Wolfenden recognition by the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, as winner of this year’s prestigious small business award, presented at a special luncheon on May 15.
Staying power, growth in number of employees, increase in sales or unit volume, innovativeness of product or services offered, response to adversity, and evidence of contribution by the nominee to aid community-oriented projects form the basis for this award.
Jeff Wolfenden, owner of Wolfenden Family Pharmacies, has been serving the community as a pharmacist since the eighties. He gained initial work experience from area chain pharmacies before becoming a pharmacist for Mr. Robert Crawford, owner of Crawford’s Pharmacy. “When Mr. Crawford began to think of enjoying his retirement, he thought of Mr. Wolfenden as an excellent candidate to offer to sell the business to,” stated nominator Cassie Keller. “Mr. Wolfenden jumped at the chance to be a pharmacy owner.”
After securing the purchase of Crawford’s Pharmacy in 1997, Mr. Wolfenden decided to build a pharmacy from the ground up in 2000, which he opened in his home town of Athens, Tennessee. “He designed the Madison Avenue Pharmacy building and hired qualified people to staff the new location,” shared Keller.
Jeff Wolfenden is the 21st individual to receive the Bedwell Small Business Person of the Year award since its renaming to honor the contributions of the late Mel Bedwell and 26 to receive the award since this recognition program began. Bedwell was one of the most loyal and supportive members of the Small Business Committee of the Chamber of Commerce, which coordinates Business Development Month.
He has seen the pharmacy industry go through significant changes during his career, according to Ms. Keller. “Initially the focus of the pharmacies were to provide medication to the patient with little information about the medicine that was being provided.” However, as the industry has grown and changed, so has Wolfenden Family Pharmacies. Ms. Keller added, “Jeff has been on the forefront of the changes that have affected the pharmacy industry.”
Mr. Wolfenden also recognized the need for adherence packaging and opened Pharmacy Home Care (PHC) of East Tennessee in 2004. The aging population and the increased occupancy of assisted living homes created a demanding market for a pharmacy to provide the needs of this population. PHC packages medication for residents in assisted living homes, provides immunization clinics on site, offers training to staff of the facilities on proper medication management and other services needed by this patient group. “Jeff goes above and beyond the normal call of duty for many of his patients at all three of his pharmacies,” said Margarete Barrie, Pharmacist in Charge, at Pharmacy Home Care of Tennessee. “He is happy to stop by a patient’s home to help them with the medications or check in on them.”
Mr. Wolfenden began the business operations eighteen years ago with ten employees, which has currently grown to 40 full-time employees. Ms. Barrie added “As an employee, I appreciate how much Jeff treats his employees like his own family. He cares about our families and always puts his family first and expects us to put our families first too.”
Crawford’s Pharmacy has increased sales by 140% since being purchased by Mr. Wolfenden and dispenses 87,000 prescriptions per year. Additionally, the Madison Avenue Pharmacy dispenses 64,000 prescriptions annually and Pharmacy Home Care dispenses 72,000 prescriptions per year. “Jeff started a new business (Pharmacy Home Care of East Tennessee) from scratch that grew with its first year to take on a new account caring for over 300 beds. This is a testament to his smart business savvy along with his interpersonal skills,” said Ms. Barrie.
Through all of his professional success Mr. Wolfenden still made the time to support the Cleveland community by sponsoring the Great Strides Walk of Cleveland and the Forgotten Child Fund throughout the holidays. He is actively involved in student mentoring initiatives in Bradley, Polk, and McMinn Counties. He especially enjoys participating in the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce job shadowing events facilitated by the Chamber’s workforce development program.
Jeff Wolfenden joins an impressive list of previous winners of the Small Business Person of the Year: Bob McIntire, McIntire & Associates Insurance, Inc.; Jeff Cocks, Corporate Networking Solutions; Greg Hicks, Impressions Catering; Roger Pickett, MurMaid Mattress Inc.; Debbie Melton, Don Ledford Automotive Center; Shannon Ritzhaupt, Café Roma; Ed Jacobs, Ed Jacobs & Associates Inc. and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network; Hal Roe, Bradley Rentals; Jim Workman, Bender Realty LLC; Don Geren, Cleveland/Bradley Business Incubator; Steve Robinson, Cleveland Plywood; Lynn Jones, Lynn Jones Enterprises; Ross Tarver, Tarver Distributing Co. Inc.; Loye Hamilton, Coldwell Banker, Hamilton & Associates; Kenneth Higgins, Santek Environmental Inc.; Kay Jenkins Cowan, Jenkins Restaurant & Deli, Dan Cooke, Cooke’s Food Store and Panera Bread; Catherine Boettner, Cleveland Tubing; Jim Duggan, Robinson Building Center; Reba Garrison, State Farm Insurance; Ron Braam, Manufacturers Chemicals LLC; Susan Shelton, Bradley News Weekly; Larry McDaniel, Town Squire; Mel Bedwell, Cleveland Business Machines and Pam Nelson, Ocoee Insurance Services.
The Small Business Committee of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce sponsors Business Development Month as part of the Chamber’s commitment to the business development of its members, the economic growth of the region, and the highest quality of life in our community.