By Catherine Jeffers
Binnie Turnage’s business is one that not only sheds light on the importance of family, but also keeps a light shining throughout North Mississippi.
Turnage Drugstore, established by Wade S. Turnage in 1905, is not your average family-owned business. Ownership has already surpassed three generations. W.W. Turnage took it over from his father in 1944, passed it down to his son Binnie in 1972, and now Binnie’s eldest son, Bobby Turnage, is the sole owner of the famed pharmacy.
It has evolved throughout each decade, expanding in size, employees, products and prescriptions. Even though Turnage Drugstore has been passed through many hands and grown exponentially, it has never stopped serving its purpose.
“My dad went to work for a drug company and grandpa’s health got bad in 1944. Daddy moved back and kept the store open just in time for me to start the first grade. So I tell folks I started [working] when I was 10,” Turnage, third-generation owner, said.
Upon entering the store, it feels as if you have stepped into a time capsule of countless generations. Family portraits and customer photos line every wall. Old trinkets from past generations cover the shelf space. Turnage employees are always ready to lend a helping hand to new and returning customers, always wearing a genuine smile. Turnage Drug Store operates on love, light, and sharing tender moments with guests.
Since his graduation from the Ole Miss Pharmacy School in 1962, Binnie Turnage has not strayed from the store. Although he has handed the keys over to his son, at age 82, he still works six days a week filling prescriptions and telling his family’s stories. According to Binnie, he will work at the pharmacy until his son Bobby has had enough of him.
“He still lets me come to work every day but Wednesday,” Turnage said.
Any person who walks in the store, whether they are running in to grab their medicine or looking to stay and drink a milkshake, gets the same treatment. A quick visit to Turnage Drugstore by an unsuspecting passerby could easily turn into memories that they now hold close to their heart.
Sitting down across from a tall, slim, kind-faced older man can simply inspire. Turnage’s outlook on life, the way he cares so deeply for each person, and the calm tone about his voice when he tells stories are just some of the reasons that Turnage Drugstore lights up the town of Water Valley.
“My dad used to say the only thing we really have to sell is our service. All drugstores have access to all the same medicines. As long as we serve the Lord and serve the people, you aren’t gonna have to look at your pocketbook,” Turnage said.
The town of Water Valley has been coming to Turnage for over 100 years, and they continue to rally behind the store and its owners. Three years ago, the pharmacy was broken into and wiped clean. Every prescription, every penny, every piece of jewelry was taken–and the robbers were never caught.
Local law enforcement informed Binnie and his son that they should install floodlights and LED lights throughout the store.
The break-in allowed Turnage to step up their safety precautions and increase light, but it did not cause them to become weary of customers. In fact, it might have increased bonds between them. The family value of the store is clear to any naked eye. Strangers are welcomed with even more open arms, the history of the store is captured throughout, and friendly hugs and meaningful conversations are constantly shared.
“The Turnage family is a family I know really well, and they are one of the most special families I’ve ever met. They only want the best for the customers. Everyone who comes here is also part of the family. Everybody knows everyone’s name,” Katie Williams, friend of the Turnage family, said.