A wish to "slow down" and "smell the roses" has prompted Stuart and Jan Curnow to sell the Blenheim pharmacy they have run on Market St since 1989.
On March 31 their association with Mortimer's and Frasers will become a casual one, say the couple, talking to the Saturday Express as a way to publicly announce their decision to leave the commitments that come with owning a business.
Neither likes being in the spotlight, Jan says, but a newspaper story seems the best way of informing their large, valued customer base. She smiles: "Otherwise it will be, ‘where did they go'?"
Jan, 58, and Stuart, 59, are selling their share of the business to partner Kath Watts, former owner of the old Mortimer's Pharmacy they merged with in 1999. They may work behind her dispensary counter again, but it will be as locums, filling in for the fulltime pharmacists.
The Curnows plan to offer their services as locums to pharmacies around the top of the south and West Coast but, between shifts, have lots of leisure hours to catch up on.
"When you own a business you are in it, seven days a week, 24 hours a day," Stuart says.
He and Jan are both keen cyclists, enjoy running and have started competing in events including the Forrest GrapeRide Marlborough and Saint Clair and Buller Gorge half-marathons.
Future challenges on their recreational wishlist include walking the Abel Tasman and Queen Charlotte tracks, spending more time in their large garden and having the freedom to visit their children and grandchildren, based at five different centres around New Zealand.
Stuart is originally from Collingwood, Golden Bay, and met Jan, from Christchurch, at the former Central Institute of Technology (CIT) in Heretaunga near Upper Hutt in 1977. They were the seventh pharmacy students to pair up at the college and marry, he chuckles.
Heretaunga students graduated with pharmaceutical diplomas; degrees in those days being restricted to a tiny number of students completing a pharmaceutical research course at Otago University, Stuart says.
Study is ongoing for all pharmacists, though, Jan adds. Keeping up with medical advances and any legislative changes affecting medical care is essential.
She spent 13 years out of the profession when the the couple's five children were small. Between 1982 and 1995 computers had replaced typewriters and new technology continues to transform the industry, she says.
Under the Ministry of Health's Long-Term Conditions Framework (LTC) patients with a long-term or recurring condition are registered with individual pharmacies which are expected to monitor and administer their medication.
Regular LTC duties include sorting patients' medicines into easy-to-use medical packs and delivering dietary liquid floods to people needing supplements.
The internet gives people on the street easier access to health information and helps them take a more active in their health, the couple say.
"They do their own research on their medical conditions and bring that information with them when they visit the pharmacy," says Stuart.
Further changes lie ahead as district health boards introduce "E-prescriptions", he says. Under a National Health Index, patients will have a "bar code" and pharmacists will use it to see what a doctor has prescribed. All medical professionals will be able to access the information, the bar code maintaining patient confidentiality.
The old adage of pharmacists being the health professionals people see most still applies, Stuart says.
"In fact, people use us a lot, probably more so than ever."
- The Marlborough Express