Devine was one of the few who was always there

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Jim Devine

Jim Devine

To those who know Jim Devine, no explanation is necessary; to those who don’t, no explanation is possible.

That bromide, used with varying degrees of effectiveness over the decades, has never been put to better use than to describe the chain drug veteran whose diligence, dedication and hard work has transformed chain drug retailing as surely and decisively as any practi­tion­er in the industry’s sometimes glorious but always interesting history.

Last month, Devine, 81, suffered a stroke. In the ultimate scheme of things, it hasn’t been immediately life threatening, if any major malady can be so described. He’s currently in rehab, and the medical authorities are predicting, and expecting, a full recovery.

Perhaps, therefore, this is an appropriate time to detail and recognize Jim’s career and accomplishments and the influence he has exerted on chain drug retailing in America. During a career that has spanned more years — decades? — than most of us are willing to consider or remember, he has been a key merchant for two major drug chains and, more recently and significantly, has led the Chain Drug Marketing Association, a group he has been instrumental in expanding until today. This organization has assumed a place in chain drug retailing that has made it indispensable to small and mid-size drug retailers and other nondrug practitioners of the art.

That’s a thumb nail sketch of Devine’s career and accomplishments. But such a description doesn’t begin to detail his influence on an industry that bears little resemblance to the potpourri of drug retailers that constituted the industry when he joined it. Names like Gray Drug, Cunningham Drug, Fay’s Drug and dozens of lesser-known or less remembered drug store retailers are history, relegated to the backroom supply of stories that all begin with the words “Remember when …”

Jim Devine remembers when these retailers formed the core of an industry now long gone, and fondly remembered by just a few, those who remember and long for the “good old days.” He remembers because he was there. He was there when hardly anyone else was. In the industry’s darkest hours he was one of the few. Those of us who attended industry events 20, 30 and 40 years ago, who approached these conferences concerned mostly with the prospect that we would know none of the attendees, needn’t have worried. Jim Devine was always there and, as early evening was transformed into the hours before midnight, he would unfailingly approach the lonely attendee and say, hopefully yet optimistically, “Let’s get a drink.”

And in the end, isn’t that what chain drug retailing is all about: the few friendly faces in a sea of strangers inviting the newcomer or slow-to-mingle attendee to have a drink or a cup of coffee or simply a chat?

In that sense, and in a larger sense, that is what chain drug retailing is all about. And in that larger sense, Jim Devine doesn’t merely exemplify chain drug retailing in America in 2020. He is chain drug retailing in America.

And so Jim (for I know you’re reading this story — after all, who doesn’t read Chain Drug Review?), I, along with your legions of friends and admirers (his phone number in rehab is available to anyone who phones our offices), wish you the speedy recovery I know is only weeks away. But hurry up. The next convention or more informal gathering is right around the corner (the current pandemic not withstanding), and who, if not you, will approach me with that Devinean mixture of exuberance and tentativeness and suggest, ever so politely but irresistibly, “Let’s go for a drink.”


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