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Ceres Drugs all in the family
Need to talk to pharmacist Smernes at Ceres Drug?

Is that Ted?

Or Derek?

Or Justin?

Ted Smernes, the owner of the downtown Ceres pharmacy, now has two sons working alongside him as pharmacists.

"They were young when we bought the store and grew up in the store basically," said Smernes. "They both got an interest in pharmacy and pursued it."

Derek Smernes, 29, has been working with his dad since graduating from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy three years ago. When his younger brother, Justin, 27, graduated from UOP in May and earned his pharmacist license in August, he joined the family operation.

"It's really interesting working with both of them," said Ted Smernes. "UOP really gave them a well rounded education and they came out very well educated. It's nice having them here. But of course it's my exit strategy for them to take over when I retire.

"It's nice to see them on a daily basis. Most times the kids grow up and move away and you only see them once or two a year."

Even the sons like working with dad.

"It's fine," said Derek. "We don't have a lot of problems getting along like a lot of fathers and sons."

Smernes admits having the sons in the operation gives him and eventual exit strategy. He's thinking about slowing down and then retirement. He first came to Ceres Drug from Payless (now RiteAid) pharmacy in 1984 and many times worked a six-day-a-week, 12-hour days.

"It's time for somebody else to take over but my plans are up in the air at the moment.

The life of a pharmacist is not as drab as the pill-counting perception the public may have, said Smernes.

"It's not boring because there's a lot of face to face with different customers. You get feedback and thank-yous for things you help them on. The pill counting is just part of it. We're on the phone to doctors and nurses a lot too. It's rewarding to help people out and we've had a lot of loyal customers over the years."

The drug store also employes Ted's wife, Debra, who helped to manage the store for 24 years, now three days a week. The current work arrangement is ideal for her.

"It's a proud time for me," she said. "My youngest wanted to be a pharmacist before his older brother."

Bobbie Engel, the boys' grandmother, works in the store on Tuesdays.