When was the last time you were inspired when shopping at CVS or Walgreens?

I thought so.

Welcome to a different kind of drugstore: Hamlin Drug in downtown Raleigh, NC.

A Little History
Established in 1904, Hamlin Drug is the oldest, minority-owned independent drugstore in the entire United States. Yes, the entire USA. ?And it?s right here in good ol? Raleigh! They sell your typical drugstore items, just like any Walgreens, Rite-Aid, and CVS does. But they offer you one thing that you will never ever ever find at any of those other chain drugstores: Inspiration. And Hamlin actually gives it away. Every single day. On a sidewalk message board.

It all started about 50 years ago, during the era of the Beatles, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and John F. Kennedy (I wasn?t even born yet). That was when Dr. John Johnson, Hamlin?s president and owner, started posting small notes on their cash register. His messages were usually contemporary, funny, or about issues that would cause his customers to pause and think.?Eventually, 48 years later, the messages came outside of the building, onto the sidewalk message board that is so familiar to downtown Raleigh pedestrians today.

Dr. Johnson still works there, 6 days a week. He?s 81 and still making waves. That alone inspires me!?I know all of this now because I met him. I told myself that I had to meet the person behind all of those really inspiring messages, and I finally did! And believe me when I tell you that he has one new customer for life. As long as my office is located downtown, I will visit his store and buy stuff that I would normally buy at a faceless Rite-Aid.

It?s the Little Things That Count
My typical work routine takes me from my car parking lot, across Moore Square, and right by Hamlin Drug.?Every single morning, their sidewalk message board has an inspirational message on it. Most people walk right by it, barely taking notice, too busy with their own lives to pause for a few seconds.?But I do notice.?I see it.?I understand the inspiration. And I look forward to taking it in?every day.?It?s one of the many little joys I soak up on my way to work.?In fact, whenever I see their message board, I stop, snap a picture of it on my iPhone, and tweet it out and post it on Facebook. It usually gets picked up and retweeted, ?liked?, and commented on. It?s little things like that message board that get me going in the morning. More powerful than my morning cup of java.

Not Available at Chain Stores
Could you imagine that kind of inspirational sign at a CVS? Everyone knows that it simply wouldn?t work. That?s because it wouldn?t be genuine, and everyone would see right through it. It would simply be one more corporate mandate, an ?inspiration policy? pushed down from the top with no heart in it, just the bottom line.

Support Local Entrepreneurs
Next time you find yourself passing by an independent local store, pause for a minute, and stop in and pay it a visit. Locally-owned and -operated independent stores are important. They are staffed and owned by entrepreneurs living in our own communities who interact and pump money back into our local economy.?Their money stays right here. And on top of that, their stores just might contain some things that are simply not available anywhere else. In my case, that ?thing? happens to be the inspiration I find on a sidewalk message board and from the story of the person that, 50 years in the making, continues to make it happen: Dr. John Johnson.

Ready to be inspired? Click on the images below to view some of the message boards I?ve snapped pictures of, or click here to visit the Hamlin Drug Facebook page.

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