Born and raised in Forest City, brothers Ken and Marshall Hardin have made their mark on our local history. Even as children the brothers were 'wired to work'. They learned early on that hard work and diligence paid off, so it wasn't a surprise that back in the early 1970's they put together a plan that resulted in the now well-known and successful Hardin's Drug. "We started with nothing other than each other." said Ken Hardin. Ken, as the pharmacist and Marshall, as the businessman joined forces to create a family oriented, trusted and dependable source of health care for many families in the county.
As the story goes, Ken made the decision to study pharmaceuticals once he enrolled at UNC-Chapel Hill. Although it wasn't something he had planned to do, it was, none-the-less, a good decision. Upon graduation, Ken began his pharmaceutical career at Smith's Drug where he credits Grady Shuford and Milton Higdon as his mentors. Several years later the brothers would learn of another opportunity and in 1973 Hardin's Drug was born.
"We owe a great deal of gratitude to Bob Ingle, the founder of Ingle's Supermarkets. He believed in us, trusted us, and built a building for the first Hardin's Drug. We now have two stores." said Ken. Hardin's Drug #1 is located on Church Street in Forest City and Hardin's Drug #2 is in Caroleen.
"Marshall had a vision and out of his vision came NKD (National Knife Distributors)" said Ken. "Under the leadership of Marshall, NKD developed several patents and brands of knives." he added. "Marshall sold and shipped knives all over the world." The unique coupling of the knife department and the pharmacy built a large customer base that grew over the years. When Marshall sadly passed away in 2011, the business experienced some changes, but the founding principles of hard work and compassion for others remained the same. "Success is a reward that comes with taking care of others" said Hardin, "We will never forget that we are in the people business and that every person that comes through our doors or drive-up window is important and appreciated. Our goal is not what you purchase, but, in how well we take care of you."
There are around 35 employees at the two stores, with 30% of them having been with the company for 10 years or more. A couple of them have been with Ken for about 35 years, Lisa Burleson and Debbie Gowan. "Lisa has worked hard to earn her position as operations manager. She is responsible for the daily operations of Hardin's Drug. Through her leadership and knowledge, I am able to work with her on new ideas and we have grown." said Ken. "Yes, I report to Lisa and we hold each other accountable."
Hardin's Drug has been a staple in our community -- the 'go to' pharmacy that has seen generations of families grow and thrive. "Hardin's Drug is serving children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren of parents that started with us in 1973." said Hardin.
"As a long-time patron of Hardin's Drug, I can remember depending on Ken to take care of my family's medicinal needs." said Mrs. Martha Gamble who grew up with Ken and Marshall Hardin. "In our generation, growing up in a close-knit 'mill village' community meant we all knew one another as neighbors or schoolmates. Now, with big chain monopolies taking over, it is gratifying to deal with a local family business. As times change, we must adapt, and Hardin's Drug has changed as well, but it's so nice to still have 'Ken' as my trusted pharmacist." added Gamble. "Following surgery last year, I went to the drive through window to get my prescriptions filled and they noticed that I was due for a flu shot. I told them I didn't feel well enough to come into the store so they told me to pull over to the side. In just a few minutes, Ken came out the back door to give me the shot. Try to get that kind of care at Wal-Mart! I hope my grandchildren will have personal relationships with those important people they will be dealing with in their 'golden years' just like I had with Ken at Hardin's Drug. Thank you, Ken!" Mrs. Gamble went on to mention that Ken had generously helped her nephew as he too pursued his dream of becoming a pharmacist.
"It's all about the people." says Mr. Ken Hardin. A lot of businesses will promise that, but Mr. Ken Hardin and his staff at Hardin's Drug demonstrate it!