By Charlene Chambers, Public Relations Coordinator
Special to The Vanguard 2021 edition
The choice of college after high school was clear for alumni and business owners Todd and Lee Ann Burrow, owners of Burrow’s Drug Store in Beebe.
“For Todd, he always knew he would attend ASU-Beebe,” said Lee Ann. Todd graduated from Beebe High School and received a basketball scholarship to attend ASU-Beebe in the fall of 1989.
Lee Ann was a Searcy High School graduate and attended her first semester of college at Arkansas State University before returning to ASU-Beebe, where she began classes in the spring of 1990.
Making Memories at ASU-Beebe
“We met Christmas break of our senior year in high school. Both Beebe and Searcy high school basketball teams were playing in an invitational tournament at ASU -Beebe. We had mutual friends who introduced us and our paths kept crossing until we eventually had our first date the night after both of us graduated from high school,” said Lee Ann.
“Some of my closest, life-long friends came from ASU-Beebe,” said Todd. “We’ve all grown up together, still check in on each other, and I guess will grow old together because of our connections made at ASU-Beebe.”
As students, Todd and Lee Ann lived on campus in the Quapaw and Princess halls respectively. “My best memories revolve around dorm life,” said Lee Ann. “With only one male and one female dorm, those of us who lived there became fairly close.
Education and Marriage
“We dated off and on for a while, but as we came to the end of our time at ASU-Beebe, we both decided to go to UCA together,” said Lee Ann.
The couple married after graduating from UCA. Todd received a Bachelor of Science in Biology in May1995, and Lee Ann received a Bachelor of Science in Education in history and a minor in special education in the fall of 1994.
Todd then attended the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and received a doctor of Pharmacy degree in May 2000. He worked at the family drug store, Burrow’s Drug, in Beebe for two years before working at Conway Regional Medical Center as a pharmacist from June 2002 until May 2010.
Lee Ann earned a master’s degree of curriculum and instruction in May 2005 from UCA and taught in Conway Public Schools for 11 years, from 1994 to 2005. She was also a faculty member at UCA in the College of Education from 2005 to 2010 and worked for the Arkansas Department of Education from 2006 to 2010.
“As our children got older, our priorities changed. We slowed down and began to look at the different paths we could take. We decided coming back to Beebe made the most sense,” said Lee Ann.
The Burrows returned to work at Burrow’s Drug Store in 2010 – Todd as pharmacist and Lee Ann managed the bookkeeping and personnel at the store. Todd became owner in 2014. Everyone was so supportive and excited to know the store was going to be run by one more generation of the Burrow family. It really was a wonderful feeling to “come home again”— especially for Todd where he’d worked all of his life on and off,” said Lee Ann. “I swept the floors as a little boy, and now I’m in charge,” said Todd.
History and Growth
Todd’s grandfather Millan Burrow purchased the drug store in 1966. It was located where the Beebe Public School bus garage is today, off of Center Street near downtown. In 1974, the name was changed from Brook’s Drug to Burrow’s Drug Store. In 1971 Todd’s father Joe Burrow joined as a pharmacist. In 2000 the store moved to the Highway 64 location and will celebrate 55 years in business this May. Todd’s grandmother Kathryn, his mother Myra, and Lee Ann have each taken care of bookkeeping duties over the years.
Lee Ann said “The best part of owning a business in Beebe is seeing many of these wonderful people around town who poured so much into us during our time at ASU-Beebe. It’s a joy and privilege to call them friends, care for them, and give back to the community. We appreciate all our patients and we work hard to preserve that hometown feel even in the midst of growth and change.”
Todd said “In the last two years we’ve gone from five employees to fifteen. As we expand and offer more for our patients, we want to keep the hometown feel above everything else. Providing 55 years of service to a community matters greatly. It gives us the unique opportunity to know several generations of a family just like they know several of ours. There are connections made that help us better care for patients and their families. You can’t find that level of care just anywhere.”
“That long-time presence in the community also helps us give to the community in a meaningful way,” said Lee Ann. “We know Beebe and the surrounding area and we try to stay plugged in because we want to help where it’s needed. We feel like the best way to serve this community is to be a part of this community—to know its people, its needs, the direction it’s heading. Watching so many at ASU-Beebe do that over the years, helped shape our desire to serve the community like that, as well.”
Community and Accolades
“We have a vested interest in the college, community, and the people of Beebe. Sure, we could work here and live elsewhere, but that didn’t make sense to us. We knew if we came back to run this store, we wanted to live here, have our kids go to school here, be involved here,” Todd said.
Burrow’s Drug Store was named the 2020 Beebe Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the year and was also a finalist in The Searcy Daily Citizen’s Best of Reader’s Choice Poll 2020.
They also started the Millan Burrow Memorial Scholarship for a Beebe student who is actively involved in their community who plans to attend ASU-Beebe. Todd and Lee Ann are both actively involved in state and national organizations to bring about reform in patient care through legislation.
Changes and Challenges
Over the past five years, Burrow’s Drug Store, along with other independently owned pharmacies nationwide, were realizing the negative impact from the increase in online sales and corporate over-reach from Pharmacy Benefits Managers (PBM).
“Our store has faced problems over the last few years that we had no control over. We could only control how we reacted to them,” said Lee Ann. “Our profession is finding out that mail order doesn’t work well with medicine, though. We are hoping the trend away from some of the online, mail-order medicine continues.”
“We’ve also learned that you persevere and keep going and you fight for what is right. We’ve all had to roll with the punches,” said Todd. “Something is always changing. There is always a challenge in every field. We have to help each other out.”
Covid-19 and Health Care
“Now factor in a pandemic,” Todd said. “It’s a whole new challenge for everyone. Just when there was hope for curtailing PBMs, we had to close our doors in March to foot traffic because of Covid-19. We were right in the middle of renovations of the store, too.”
Lee Ann added: “From there, we had to get creative. Funneling 250 or more prescriptions through the drive thru wasn’t going to work. Some days we’d have a line of cars up to the road. That made for a tough drive thru scene, so we began doing delivery, curbside, and really promoting our Rx Local app.
“We look forward to being completely open again, though. We miss our customers. It’s not the same to wave at them through the window. They used to come in and chat, give us a hug, call for us by name. Our whole staff misses these interactions. We can’t wait to be open completely again. That’s what a hometown pharmacy is really all about—the relationships, the community, the people,” said Lee Ann.
“Looking back, we owe ASU-Beebe above all for putting up with us as 18-year-old students,” said Todd. “ASU-Beebe was a great step for me between high school and a four-year-college and set the foundation for my career.”
“There are so many wonderful things to mention about ASU-Beebe, but its strongest asset is its people,” said Lee Ann. “Each faculty and staff member cares about the students’ success and well-being. It showed in everything they did when we attended. Not only did it make us, as students, want to succeed, it made us want to be like those adults who helped and supported others along the way.”
“Our alumni are our strongest asset in communicating the value of ASU-Beebe. I am inspired by their stories,” said Rose Mary Jackson, Associate Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement. "We gladly share their stories of how ASU-Beebe has positively influenced them."
Arkansas State University-Beebe Alumni Stories is a project of the Alumni Association with the goal of sharing and preserving the ASU-Beebe historical and educational experiences of former students. If you are an alum and would like to share your story, contact Institutional Advancement at (501) 882-8855.