Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Best of Whitefish: Alpine Apothecary celebrates 10 years of being community connector

Whitefish Pilot | June 5, 2024 12:00 AM

Owners and pharmacists Becky Stillo and her husband Josh are celebrating the Alpine Apothecary’s 10-year anniversary this month. Located inside Super 1 Foods in Whitefish, the pharmacy has won the Best of Whitefish competition for the last six years in a row.

The business was previously called Alpine Ridge. The Stillos purchased the business in 2014 and changed the name to reflect the kind of service they provide.

“We wanted to have a name reflective of that history of what pharmacists should and can be,” Stillo said. “Apothecary is an old word for a pharmacist or a shop where they would make and mix medicines.”

In addition to providing traditional medications, Alpine Apothecary is a compounding pharmacy. Compounding involves putting a raw drug, in a powdered form, into a form that best suits the patient, like a cream, suspension or lozenge.

“We take the active ingredient and put it into whatever dosage form and strength for the patient,” Stillo said. “It’s making it from scratch.”

Stillo said the compounding lab produces speciality or personalized medicine.

“Let's say you can’t swallow, you can’t have an additive, your kid is tiny and there’s no dose available in a commercial form,” Stillo said. “We make whatever [medicine] to those accommodations. Sugar free, gluten free – to make sure it's safe for you.”

Stillo said the compounding lab has grown into “quite an operation” since the early years when the shop may have made one compound each day. Now, two people compound all day to meet the demand. 

“Big companies make billions of capsules at a time,” she said. “Our batches of capsules are 100 at a time. We make 30. We might make four.”

While the idea of compounding may bring to mind visions of a mortar and pestle, she said that while they do have those iconic tools, most jobs today are handled with state-of-the-art, highly specialized equipment. 

The tagline for the Alpine Apothecary is “integrating traditional pharmacy with natural medicine,” and that is precisely what they do. The shop stocks vetted, high quality supplements, some from local companies, in addition to traditional medicines.

“We try to keep specialty things we use in our family,” she said. “We try to really find brands that fit us — researched and tested and safe, tried and true things we can stand behind.” 

Stillo said some customers are fearful of pharmaceuticals and resist using them, while others are hesitant to investigate natural supplements. She believes there is a time and a place for everything. 

“The idea is people have a safe space to be really holistic and they have a space to come into us on tons of pharmaceuticals,” Stillo said. “Our goal here is to make people feel welcome no matter what end of that spectrum they’re on and perhaps guide them into safe medical decisions that integrate both sides of things.”

Listening to the details of a customer’s condition and coming up with a solution is what drives Stillo. She is always on the lookout for what she could do to make the situation better. 

“I really do like solving problems,” she said. “People need [to be] supported on both sides of all of their medical choices and an accessible way to come and ask those questions and not feel shame. There needs to be a free flowing pendulum for people to ask questions and that’s what I'm hoping to do.”

A board member for Shepherd’s Hand and the coordinator of their pharmacy for nearly 20 years, Stillo’s desire to help the community and be a community connector is undeniable.

Caring for the community means caring for the community’s pets, too. 

“We do tons of veterinary medicine now, too,” Stillo said. “No need to get the meds in the mail.”


    The Alpine Apothecary celebrates 10 years in business this June. (Julie Engler/Whitefish Pilot)

was born in Whitefish and raised in Eureka, where her family is linked to the building of the historic Peltier cabin which dates to 1891.

“We’ve been around for forever,” she laughed. “My dad was the mayor of Eureka at one point during my high school years. That was super fun. Couldn't get away with anything.”

After starting college in Bozeman, she moved to Missoula for her doctorate of pharmacy degree and met her husband, Josh, while completing an internship in Spokane. Josh, also a pharmacist, went to school in Pullman, Washington.

Stillo worked in a hospital before owning a pharmacy in a nonprofit clinic in Washington State’s Tri-Cities area. With their first daughter in tow, the family moved back to Whitefish to be closer to family.

She enjoyed an internship at Haines Drug, which had locations in Eureka and Whitefish. Her work experiences let her know she did not want to work at a large, corporate pharmacy, like Walgreens.

“I took the job here, at Alpine Ridge, in 2012. When they decided to close the store, my husband Josh and I took over ownership in June of 2014.” 

It was a big step, but she and Josh said they’d give it a try.

“And sure enough, now we’re here 10 years later,” Stillo said. “I’m loving it.”