FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Bryan Collins likes to think he officially became the fourth generation in his family to work at the former Collins Pharmacy of Bridgeport in elementary school.
“In second grade I was dusting shelves,” he said, “paid in candy.”
The family business, now Collins Medical Equipment of Fairfield, celebrated its 85th birthday in business this month, inviting the extended family, friends, former employees and customers to join the celebration with a grand re-opening and an evening of memories.
“We are the definition of a family business,” company President Jack Collins told the crowd of about 100 that gathered in the shop’s Kings Highway East parking lot, enjoying pizza and reconnecting with old friends well into the night Sept. 23.
Collins Pharmacy was founded in 1931 in Bridgeport’s Black Rock neighborhood by the late Thomas P. Collins. Typifying the corner drugstore of the era, it was a neighborhood hub with a soda fountain and card table for the locals to gather around, plus a prescription counter where all the medicines were compounded by the pharmacist.
After World War II and and a degree from the University of Connecticut School Of Pharmacy, Tom Collins, Jr., took over at the helm and, in 1963, moved to a larger facility next door to the original.
In the mid-1970s, Tom’s son Jack, one of five children, followed in his dad’s footsteps, graduating from UConn and joining him at the pharmacy. Always looking to the future, Jack Collins added a medical equipment department and became one of the first Connecticut pharmacies to computerize prescriptions.
The pharmacy moved again 1991, this time to a former Fairfield Avenue Shell station.
In 2002, the family sold the prescription department to CVS and began focusing on home medical equipment and supplies, eventually christening its current location as Collins Medical Equipment.
Now well out of second grade, Bryan Collins, a certified Aging in Place specialist, heads up Collins Accessibility Solutions, which strives to support the aging population and those with disabilities with bathroom remodeling, ramps and other supplies for comfortable living at home.
Jack Collins' brother Chris, now the general manager, is celebrating his 30th year as part of the business. Tom Collins IV is in charge of finance and Bryan Collins heads up sales and marketing.
Though he and his wife moved to Florida for 17 years after his retirement, Tom Collins moved back to Bridgeport last year and was pleased to be with family and friends at the celebration.
“This is just wonderful,” he said with a broad smile.
State Sen. Tony Hwang said the festivities attested to the family’s lasting legacy in both Bridgeport and Fairfield.
“The Collins family's generosity and commitment to our community was evident by the large crowd that wanted to show their appreciation and gratitude,” he said. “What a wonderful celebration.”
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