WARWICK, R.I. — Nick Shanos jokes that he hasn’t worked a day in his life, and Deb Contois sometimes thinks of herself as a bartender who listens and helps.
But both work at the Suburban Pharmacy on Pawtuxet Avenue, the last independent pharmacy in the city after the Oxnard Pharmacy closed a few years back. Suburban is in Norwood, a close-knit residential community near the airport.
“It’s nice,” said Shanos, who was raised in Norwood. “It’s family-oriented.”
Shanos’ father opened the pharmacy in 1961, and Shanos, who grew up in the store, took over in the mid-1980s.
Although the mom-and-pop shop harks back to the old days, with a picture of Shanos’ father working in the store hanging on a wall, the pharmacy has kept up with the times.
“I am a tech nut,” Shanos said, pointing to a smartwatch on his wrist. “Technology is huge for us.”
Shanos said pharmacists don’t count out tablets anymore; machines do that. The company also has its own mobile application that people can download for free. There, they can request prescription refills, for example.
But it’s the personal touch of community that’s noticeable at the pharmacy.
As customers walked in on a recent day, they went to the back to greet Shanos and ask about his two children. Debora O’Connor received a hug from Shanos when she spoke with him, becoming tearful.
O’Connor, who was buying scratch tickets, said she is a daily customer.
“I’m going through tough times right now,” she said, and Shanos and Contois have been helping her through the ordeal. O’Connor’s husband was diagnosed with cancer and had just had surgery.
“It’s like ‘Cheers,'” O’Connor said of the pharmacy, referring to the 1980s TV show. “Everybody is so kind and helpful.”
That sense of community is something that Carl Salustio, the Norwood Neighborhood Association’s president, has been working to build over the past 15 years or so, he said.
The association has grown to more than 400 members on its mailing list.
The group is working with the Parent Teacher Association at Norwood Elementary School on a neighborhood clean-up. The connection “is going to give us an influx of new blood coming into the organization,” Salustio said.
This past year, the association has also put into place a crime watch group. They’ve distributed pamphlets telling residents what they should do if they notice anything suspicious. Salustio also said residents are reminded to lock their car doors at night to avoid thefts.
A neighborhood draw in the summertime is the large white gazebo at Norwood and Pawtuxet avenues, where people enjoy free concerts.
“The people feel good, and you can see the little children running around” enjoying burgers and hot dogs. They’re memories people won’t forget, Salustio said. “We want to feel like a community.”
The neighborhood’s working-family character is reflected in the moderate prices of homes on the market there. A three-bedroom, two-bath colonial home on Pettaconsett Avenue is listed at $245,000, according to the real estate website Zillow. A smaller ranch home on Sargent Street, with three bedrooms and a partially finished basement, is priced at $179,900.
On Twitter: @CarolKozma