The moment you step into Wellness RX in Tannersville, even if you’re just filling a run-of-the-mill prescription, you know you’re in a different kind of place. The quaint shop has more of a homelike feel than your average pharmacy, complete with comfortable chairs to sit in and displays of locally made and sourced items throughout the store, such as elderberry magic elixirs and CBD oils.
This Catskills establishment is based on a broader, deeper model of what ails us than corporate pharma, and founder Ed Ullman has distilled a lifetime of analysis into a community institution for true healing. “I’ve lived in Mount Tremper, just outside of Phoenicia, since 1975,” says Ed of his neighborhood in the Catskills. “I’ve left at times, traveled the world on other projects. And this place has always called me back. I love the culture of intertwined free spirits. If you can’t introduce a Renaissance idea in the Hudson Valley, you can’t do it anywhere.”
Ed was born into a challenging situation on Long Island and found himself on his own at age 14 in Walden, taken in by an aunt with an unheated cottage and then by a woman with five of her own to raise. “If there hadn’t been a hand reached out to me, I could easily have gone in another direction entirely and become a drug dealer,” he says. “Never dismiss the importance of caring. That gesture planted in methe essence of my whole career.” In college, he was still suspicious of his fellow humans. He remembers, “A chem. professor asked, ‘How are you doing?’ I responded, ‘Why do you care? What’s in it for you?’ Once I understood he that he really did care, I became a man and won the Citizenship Award at Cobleskill.” He continued his studies at Albanay College of Pharmacy and Health Studies, and continued on to receive an MPA degree from Syracuse University. He went on to be a National HMO Fellow at Georgetown Medical School in Washington, DC. Then he set out on his own, in pursuit of helping people feel better.
Along with typical over-the-counter and prescription pharmacy items, the store carries a full line of natural, holistic, blended, and compounded creations, maintains a group of practitioners who offer healing services, and offers in-depth wellness consultation aimed at helping patients break the cycle of ever-increasing medication.
Founder Ed Ullman has distilled a lifetime of analysis into a community institution for true healing.
Never one to color inside someone else’s lines, Ed’s developed 30 startups over the years and has been a pharmacy district manager, mental health director, county legislator, and owner/operator of the world-renowned Warm Mineral Springs in Florida. He also developed, founded, and operated WellCare Health Plans, Inc. which was for many years the largest HMO in the Hudson Valley and the second largest private employer in Ulster County.
“HMOs just turned into big business,” he says. “Insurers have to be mandated to do the right thing; we’re not demanding enough from them and they aren’t functioning as part of the solution.”
Asked by the Hunter Foundation in Tannersville to start a hometown pharmacy in 2015, Ed informed every decision with that passion to be part of the solution. Wellness, he knows, is an all-encompassing condition with roots in nutrition and self-care and branches that spread into how communities connect. Along with typical over-the-counter and prescription pharmacy items, the store carries a full line of natural, holistic, blended, and compounded creations, maintains a group of practitioners who offer healing services, and offers in-depth wellness consultation aimed at helping patients break the cycle of ever-increasing medication.
None of it would be possible, says Ed, without the team, including his wife Patty, co-owner J. Scott MacKay, and a diverse group of assistants and practitioners. Staff includes a mental health counselor, a former hockey announcer who suffered a near-fatal car accident, and a woman whose suffering with a flawed IUD led her to take the matter to Congress and create change that affected 40,000 women. “I have a fellow refugee from corporate pharma, a new mom from Puerto Rico . . . . I hire people for their stories,” Ed says. “And their passion.”
Wellness RX is more than a pharmacy; it’s emerged as a rural research and development center where the larger questions are coming into focus. “The question of how to meet community needs is a shared focus,” says Ed. “One study in progress: If we take the highest-risk people and assign a caseworker to follow their progress, bond with and adapt to their needs, can we reduce hospitalizations and emergencies and help them build a higher quality of life? We’ve had great success with the six families involved so far.”
For Ed, everything stems from the human encounter. “You need to treat everyone the same and be consistent, and word spreads,” he says. “We have a Patient Assistance Fund thanks to wealthy contributors. The IRS just approved our Wellness Rx Charitable Fund, so that will add even more help for those who are struggling.”
“We have a Patient Assistance Fund thanks to wealthy contributors. The IRS just approved our Wellness Rx Charitable Fund, so that will add even more help for those who are struggling.” –Ed Ullman, Owner
Wellness Rx rolled out Greene County’s first COVID-19 vaccinations last winter and spring, with help from State Senator Michelle Hinchey’s office and a team of community volunteers. “We went after all the at-risk folks who are unlikely to leave the mountaintop and drive 80 miles,” Ed says. “Hotel workers, restaurant workers. . . we got 92-year-olds, people from shacks, people with oxygen tanks . . . . We also did a video of interviews, recording history. And I was so proud to watch volunteers doing hard work out of love—that is what I want to see coming out of Covid.” Throughout the pandemic, the mountaintop wellness center kept shining a light, whether by filling folks’ prescriptions or mixing up CBD and elderberry to help calm “autistic and hyperkinetic” kids. “I tell them, ‘I was you at your age, I learned to take all that wild energy in my brain and make it productive, and you can, too,” Ed says.
In his time off, Ed likes to build sculptures from the rocks in the mountain stream at his home. “I put them up and the birds and animals knock them down,” he laughs. “It’s fun. As for work, if you’re not trying for greatness, what’s the point? Every community should have a Wellness Center. What we have developed seems to be working for the patients and the community, and we’d like to help heal the wounded health care system, so we’ve developed a slide presentation on how to duplicate this model in other communities. We need beacons of hope. If we get backers, we’ll be moving full speed ahead. I hope we can break through. We need a lot of bright lights to connect.”
5980 Main Street, Tannersville