After 40 Years, Township Pharmacist Is Calling It A Career

Township resident Jim Forino is calling it a career after more than 40 years as a pharmacist.

After more than 40 years as a pharmacist, Jim Forino is finally putting away his mortar and pestle.

The Somerset father of three spent the bulk of his career at the Somerset Park Pharmacy on Easton Avenue before moving on to the Shop Rite on Elizabeth Avenue, ending at the Shop Rite location in Stirling.

His last day is Dec. 13, which, he said, “will be a 15-hour day.”

It was the consistent long days like that, the changing of the pharmacy business and a desire to spend time with his wife, children and grandchildren that prompted Forino to announce several weeks ago that he was retiring, he said.

“It’s basically time,” he said. “The industry has changed dramatically, people have changed also. The requirements of being a pharmacist are extremely stressful. You really have to be able to do five or six things at the same time.”

Forino credits his first full-time boss, the late Phil Seidman of the Somerset Park Pharmacy, with teaching him the ins and outs of the business.

“The man knew everything, he knew where every single thing was in that store,” Forino said. “He was a tough cookie. He expected perfection. He would yell at you, he would throw things at you. But he would do anything at all to help a person out.”

Forino said he used that side of Seidman as his model during his career.

“I tried to help people constantly, I’ll go out of my way,” he said.

A native of Baltimore, Forino’s family moved first to Ohio, then New York City before finally coming to New Jersey, living in Plainfield and Middlesex.

Forino spent his freshman year of college at the Newark College of Engineering (now New Jersey Institute of Technology) before deciding  that engineering wasn’t for him.

“I didn’t like calculus, and calculus didn’t like me,” he said.

An aptitude test showed that he would do well in the sciences: dentistry, medical school or pharmacy.

“I really never thought about pharmacy, but I looked into it and transferred to the College of Pharmacy” at Rutgers – New Brunswick, he said.

“I always loved science and history,” Forino said.

Forino took some time off from college, graduating in 1977. By then, he’d already been working at Somerset Park Pharmacy for about two years.

“I searched around when I was serious in pharmacy trying to to find a job in a pharmacy, but I couldn’t find a job,” he said. “There was a laundromat on Easton Avenue in the shopping center where the iHop is and there was a pharmacy there, Somerset Park Pharmacy. Every week when I went to wash my clothes, I’d stop in and apply. Kept on doing it, kept on doing it. I was a persistent son of a gun.”

“But he had an intern already, so he wasn’t prepared to hire me,” Forino said. “But an incident happened, I was next in line, so he gave me a call. In June of 1975 I started working for Phil Seidman’s Somerset Park Pharmacy.”

But Seidman didn’t have a job for him when he got his license after graduating, so Forino went to work for several other pharmacies in the area, he said.

Seidman didn’t forget hm however, and called him to help set up new stores in Monroe and North Brunswick, eventually calling him back full-time to Somerset Park Pharmacy around 1980.

Forino stayed there until  2007 when, he said, “I saw the writing on the wall.”

“Pharmacy is very difficult,” he said. “The last year I worked there, I noticed that about 30 percent of my customers suddenly weren’t coming in as often. What happened was mail order had sucked up a third of our customers.”

“I saw the writing on the wall also because of insurance company’s regressiveness when it comes to payments,” he said.

About that time, Village Shop Rite was preparing t open its Elizabeth Avenue store, and Forino went knocking on their door.

“Not that they were advertising for a pharmacist, but I went over and forcefully interviewed myself with them, I sold myself to them,” he said. “They weren’t looking for a pharmacist, they move people from within.”

“I sold myself to the guy, I said when you open your doors to the store I will know 40 percent of the people who walk in that store. So I opened up the pharmacy at Shop Rite,” he said.

His tenure as a pharmacist has led to his meeting many people, and running into them in different parts of the world, Forino said. The most memorable time was during a family vacation to Washington D.C.

Forino and his wife, Diane, were there with their two boys. They wanted to visit the Supreme Court, but saw that the line waiting to get in was very long.

Forino approached a Capitol Police officer, and asked him how long the wait would be, he said. While they were talking, he recognized the name on the officer’s tag.

“I said, I know that name,” Forino said. The officer asked where he was from, and Forino said New Jersey. Then he named the patient, to which the officer responded, “that’s my grandfather.”

Forino rattled off a few more relative’s names, prompting the officer to say, “come with me, you’re my uncle.”

With the Forinos in tow, the officer went to the head of the line and ushered them in.

That led to a chance meeting with the personal secretary to former Supreme Court Justice David Souter, including some play time for the two boys on the court’s basketball court – located above the Supreme Court chamber – and some time in the chamber itself.

“That was the most amazing afternoon we ever had,” Diane Forino said.

Retirement won’t mean idleness for Forino, he said.

After a period of “decompressing,” he said, he’d like to do some traveling, volunteer “maybe for the Red Cross or something” and perhaps find a part-time job.

His wife already has their first European trip planned. The couple and their two boys – Forino also has a grown daughter – will fly to London, England in June to watch the New York Yankees play the Boston Red Sox.

But mainly, Forino said, retirement will be about “decompressing. That’s going to take a while.”


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