Over One Hundred Years Of Local Loyalty

Article by Sharla Davenport

Photography by Holly Farrow

Originally published in Celina Lifestyle

When you think of Celina, one of the town’s oldest businesses is a fundamental piece of its history. Celina Drug has been a part of the community since the early 1900’s and is still thriving today. 

The pharmacy started out in downtown Celina, now occupied by a candy store, at the corner of the town square. The original building was two stories with a dentist office located on the second floor.

In 1917, Bob Jones and Joe Dyer purchased the store and eventually renamed it Jones Pharmacy. Like many pharmacies during this time, it had a “booming soda business” and ice cream shop. It was so popular that “it was nothing to sell fifty gallons of ice cream on a Saturday” (source: Reminiscences of Celina). 

Jones Pharmacy experienced many owners in the 1900’s until 1970 when Rex and Fran Mask bought the building and business. The Masks decided to return the name to its original form, Celina Drug, and operated the store for the next thirty years. Fran said one of her most significant memories was when the building caught fire in 1980. The fire, caused by criminals trying to hide evidence from a robbery, destroyed the entire second floor and most of the building. Fran recalls while the fire was devastating, the surrounding business owners worked the entire next day to clean and help open the pharmacy quickly. She remembers over eighty volunteers from Celina who made it possible for the store to reopen within a day after the devastating fire.

The Masks sold Celina Drug in 2006 to new owners who relocated the business to its current location, off Preston Road. Today, Celina Drug is owned by Jai Harris-Ellis who has been a part of the store since 2007 where she started out as a junior partner prior to ownership. 

The store’s legacy is not lost on Jai Harris-Ellis. She notes “it is a torch to be carried for sure.” She’s frequently asked if she’ll sell the pharmacy as the town continues to grow. But “there is a loyalty here with me too,” she says, noting she is raising her two young daughters in Celina keeping them active in the community with their hobbies.

The town is just as loyal to Celina Drug. Just like the flu epidemic of 1918, Celina Drug also experienced the strain of the recent pandemic. Jai says that the volume of calls, insurance claims, plus prescriptions was tough, but “we got through it” with Celina’s support. “We just take care of our base and our people, and they will take care of us,” she continued.  This philosophy was noticed not only by citizens but also by city leaders. The City of Celina recognized her extraordinary service by presenting her with the 2021 Life Connected Award.  

Jai Harris-Ellis says the best part about her job is the relationships. She explains that Celina Drug literally has taken care of families for generations from “grandma on down”. Jai adores having the time to talk with each of those families. "I like to run my mouth and you can’t do that at a big chain,” she remarks.

Regardless of Celina’s pending growth, Jai plans to continue the store’s culture. She maintains the staff will continue to answer phones, not make customers wait days or hours for a prescription and will continue to focus on the personalized touch. “We know the customers and they know us. We will continue to carry on like we have always done,” she promises. Such comforting words of loyalty from a business that has been loyal to Celina for over a hundred years.

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