Corner site’s dose of long-lasting medicine

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Chemist Kim Wilkinson is celebrating 25 years of owning and operating Queenstown’s landmark Unichem Wilkinsons Pharmacy.

Wilkinson, 52, took over the shop on the corner of Rees Street and The Mall in July 1984, along with wife Marie.

The pharmacy today continues an incredible, unbroken 142-year history of dishing out medicines from the same site.

Hotops Dispensary was established there in 1867 and in the early 1920s, Kim’s grandfather Gordon Wilkinson bought it from Wakatipu business pioneer Lewis Hotop.

It’s been in the Wilkinson family since and is believed to be the oldest remaining pharmacy in New Zealand still operating from the same location.

Down the years there have been a few dramas. The premises survived a number of serious floods, including a storm in 1948 when water rose to a metre deep inside the shop.

There’s a staff of 23 to cover the seven-day operation. “It’s a great place to work and like being part of a big family,” Jenna Neale says.

The layout, on one of the resort’s busiest corners, is a far cry from the way it was quarter of a century ago.

“Back then there was only about three of us working there,” says Michelle McKone, who worked from 1985-99.

“We still sold fine perfumes, makeup and loads of sunglasses as well as pharmaceuticals.

“The big difference is the shop was a lot smaller than it is now. It must have been extended at least three times since Kim got it.”

Wilkinson grew up in Geraldine, South Canterbury, and gained his Bachelor of Pharmacy from Otago University.

He came to Queenstown in 1984, having had a working holiday for the previous five years in Australia, the UK and Saudi Arabia.