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Finlandia: over 40 years of offering its customers “health without drugs”

Finlandia: over 40 years of offering its customers “health without drugs”

Finlandia Pharmacy and Natural Health Centre was founded in 1974. The vision of pharmacist Harlan Lahti, Finlandia has stood the test of time.  It was a unique business when it opened, and continues to be to this date, offering customers and clients a vast selection of products, the benefits of a compounding pharmacy and a multitude of professional services.

Finlandia Pharmacy and Natural Health Centre was founded in 1974. The vision of pharmacist Harlan Lahti, Finlandia has stood the test of time.  It was a unique business when it opened, and continues to be to this date, offering customers and clients a vast selection of products, the benefits of a compounding pharmacy and a multitude of professional services.

Over the years, Finlandia has built bridges between itself and all healthcare modalities – from western medicine to homeopathy.   “We recognize that prescription medications are frequently an important method of treating disease, particularly when the situation is acute,” says Markus Guggenberger operations and purchasing manager at Finlandia. “To this end, we maintain a full service medical/compounding pharmacy. However, we also recognize that support with natural preventive agents and remedies is more attuned to nature’s plan.”

Helping customers reach optimal health

Finlandia’s mission has always been to help its customers attain optimal health and vitality and to enable full enjoyment of all life has to offer.  Markus explains that this is achieved through traditional prescriptions and complementary modalities – including herbs, supplements and naturopathic/homeopathic services – personalized for each individual. “Our store and health services centre are fully equipped to provide integrated, personalized health care and wellness medicine. We retain the services of many health professionals in the fields of traditional pharmacy, naturopathic medicine, homeopathy and acupuncture, to ensure the appropriate modalities are conveniently available to customers who require them.”

Finlandia founder Harlan Lahti sat down and answered some questions from CNHR on Finlandia’s formation, it’s business model and why it continues to thrive after all these years.

CNHR: How would you best describe Finlandia Pharmacy?

Harlan: Finlandia’s focus is “health without drugs,” but if you need them, we have them. It is a full service store. Most pharmacies are SELF service. We have over 50 qualified employees.

CNHR:  Is it more a traditional pharmacy or more of an upscale health food store? 

Harlan: Less than 10 per cent of our sales are from medical prescriptions and those are mostly bio-identical hormones, which we have been doing for over 25 years. The rest of the sales come from services we offer and natural alternative products. Our customers enjoy shopping in the natural and calm ambiance Finlandia has to offer.

CNHR: What are some of the things that make Finlandia Pharmacy different from either a traditional health food store or pharmacy? 

Harlan: We are a true compounding pharmacy.  We can compound anything – homeopathics, herbal tinctures, sterile preparations, vitamins or nutritional formulas and, of course, prescriptions with many proprietary formulas.

We have many people working at Finlandia. This creates a huge pool of knowledge. We also have an impressively-sized product selection, featuring many retail and professional products.

CNHR:  What type of professionals do you have on staff?

Harlan: We have over 50 qualified employees, including 
eight pharmacists in total. Four of them are licensed in British Columbia (one has 50 years pharmacy experience) and four are from other countries: India, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines.  We also have eight herbalists, including three clinical herbalists and one consultant herbalist.  In addition, we have two homeopaths, three registered holistic nutritionists and as many as four naturopathic doctors at any time. 

CNHR: What is the advantage to Finlandia of having so many professionals on staff? 

Harlan: It puts us in a position to offer a high quality of professional service and information. Also, it offers the consumer a greater variety of knowledge rather than the same approach and opinion by one person or a small group.

CNHR:  When you started Finlandia, what was your original vision for the store? Over the years, have you stayed true to that vision or has it evolved into something different? 

Harlan: The original vision of Finlandia was quality customer service, rather than a profit/sales driven business model. This hasn’t changed in over 40 years. The business itself has surely evolved due to changing customer needs.

CNHR:  Finlandia offers many alternative services (acupuncture, cold laser therapy, homeopathy, etc.). How many of these services are offered in-store? 

Harlan: Due to our growth, we are very much running out of space.  Therefore, we moved approximately 70 per cent of all services we offer across the street to the clinic.  The clinic is integrated into  the store and serves its needs when customers require any in-depth consultations.

CNHR:  How much of Finlandia’s business is retail-based (product sales) and how much service-based (consultation and treatment)?

Harlan: Roughly 75 per cent of our business is retail-based, while the other 25 per cent is service-based.

CNHR:  Just to clarify, Finlandia pharmacy dispenses pharmaceutical drugs you could get at a regular pharmacy?  And the alternative or other option is the herbal dispensary?  How do the two complement each other?  Do MDs work with you to recommend?

Harlan: Yes, we dispense regular generics as well as brand drugs, and we are a compounding pharmacy with an expanded focus into compounding individual herbal formulas. We fill various prescriptions from MDs and NDs. If we cannot get it, we can usually make it. Often, drugs do not work alone, but when complemented, results can be achieved.

CNHR: What is the advantage of having a compounding pharmacy in-house? Is this common in pharmacies? 

Harlan: It used to be not too common for pharmacies to compound because they do not have trained staff. Today, compounding pharmacies are popping up all over the place. They often come along with limited services and only offer high volume and high profit items. Their quality is questionable since staff might have limited training and quality control might not be a priority. 
Finlandia is a unique stand-alone pharmacy. We have extremely educated staff, low staff turnover, and provide superior quality products at very competitive pricing; we match prices, so we cannot be accurately called a high-priced store. Finlandia also has its own brand of supplements, with over 50 unique formulations that are well priced and all come with NPNs.

CNHR:  What is the biggest challenge of running a business like Finlandia? 

Harlan: The biggest challenge is staying a leader. Many stores and chains have tried and are trying to copy our model but don’t succeed, due to lack of trained staff, a different vision and other reasons. Finlandia’s employees love their job and this reflects in our high quality of service. I am proud to say that we do have a unique business model. •


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