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Bureaucratic Blues

Our yearlong look at an herbal pharmacy's start-up

Some call it bureaucratic BS. Others call it life's big ball of red tape. No matter how you put it, the same reality is revealed: You'll no doubt be screwed by the ever-dreaded "system" at some point in your life. In regular life it sucks, but in a starry-eyed entrepreneur's life, it can make that good old American Dream turn nightmarish.

Luckily for Scott Fiore, owner of The Herbal Remedy in Littleton, Colorado, things could've been worse. But that's not to say he hasn't experienced his share of worry and frustration in transforming the sparkle in his eye into a profitable natural pharmacy. "You gotta laugh," says Fiore, 32. "If you don't laugh, you'll cry." A healthy outlook, even if the laughter is motivated by hysteria.

Let's backtrack to the pre-opening period, when Fiore still worked in research and development at Rosemont Pharmaceutical Corp. in Denver. Well aware of his destiny, he commenced the start-up process by picking a store name that would scream "Come. Learn. Buy." Originally, that name was "The Herbal Pharmacy," and Fiore thought that because he's a licensed pharmacist well-versed in herbal medicine, the catchy moniker would explain quite nicely what he could offer the public: a natural alternative to prescription drugs, complete with educated guidance.

The catch came only after he filed the trade name in Colorado. "I got a call from a Regulatory Affairs guy [from the Board of Pharmacy] saying we couldn't use that name, and that he would be happy to shut us down on the first day we opened our doors," remembers Fiore. He had notified the Board simply as a precaution, never expecting to be forbidden from calling his business a pharmacy.

Ever prepared, Fiore had trademarked The Herbal Remedy and The Herbal Apothecary Inc. as well. He appealed to the Board for the right to use "natural pharmacy" as a descriptor rather than a trade name. Approval was won last November, but, says Fiore, "It was a scare and definitely a headache."

Noteworthy annoying fiasco number two: Tri-County Board of Health setbacks right before opening his new, larger location in April of this year. "You're always dealing with a regulatory agency, and if it's government-regulated, [the process] tends to be slower than you'd like, and the results aren't always what you anticipate," says Fiore. He had store plans (including the juice bar addition) drawn up, hired a general contractor and got the plans approved by the city.

After the majority of construction was completed, and initial city inspections were going well, Fiore contacted the Tri-County Board of Health regarding its inspection. When no one from the Board stopped by after two weeks, Fiore called back. An inspection was performed two weeks later--a mere week before the leasing company's moving deadline.

"The [Tri-County Board of Health] required two different inspections at two different stages and wouldn't allow us to install the sinks and other stuff until they actually did the rough inspection. We couldn't finish the work, [so the city of] Littleton couldn't give us the certificate of occupancy [to legally move into the new location]," says Fiore.

Thousands of dollars and plenty of stress later, Fiore got his certificate of occupancy in early May. And so as not to rehash further frustration (because it's all in the past now, isn't it?), we won't go into how the phone company didn't fix a problem with crossed phone lines for about a week and a half--leaving the store with only a fax line.

As you reflect on Fiore's various frustrating encounters, keep in mind your personal tools that will help you in the red-tape trade: knowledge of any regulation you may encounter and your rights in the matter, a persistent nature, and the ability to take unfortunate circumstances in stride.

Any advice for the now-scared-straight, Scott? "Be diplomatic and learn as you go along--that's the only way to do it."

Contact Source

The Herbal Remedy, (303) 795-8600, http://www.theherbalremedy.com

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