Mike DeAngelis said his career as a pharmacist began when he got a chemistry set at age 12. Years later, in the U.S. military during World War II, he worked as a pharmacy technician, and when he returned home, he studied chemistry, biology and pharmacy at St. John's University.
Now DeAngelis, 85, is celebrating his 53rd year as the owner of Village Chemists of Setauket.
"I'm starting to get used to it," he joked.
He said people have asked him when he plans to retire, to which he says, "I don't."
"I want to be here because I know I help people every day," he said. "To me, it isn't work. This is what I enjoy doing."
Over the years DeAngelis said he has seen far-reaching changes in the pharmaceutical industry, most notably with the continually changing insurance companies and their policies and prices.
"Insurance companies usually set the prices – very, very unfairly – but there’s nothing we can do about it," he said.
Pharmacists are required, he said, to complete 15 hours of continuing education per year in order to maintain their certifications – something that he said is needed in order to properly serve the customers. Additionally, he said, he and his staff stay on top of new developments by reading about and researching them.
"People come in and they want to discuss how their medication is going to affect them," DeAngelis said. "If you don’t have any answers, people don’t have any confidence in you, they don’t have any confidence in the medication, and they don’t have any confidence in their doctor. We kind of bridge that gap."
He said he doesn't believe there is any actual competition from the big-box stores and other national pharmacy chains, and said he does not believe there is any competition from other nearby individually-owned pharmacies because they are "very localized."
"The Wal-marts and the CVSs and the Walgreens have a different type of business," he said. "We have a very personal type of business."
In fact, DeAngelis said, he doesn't want his store to be a big business. Opening another location was never an option, he said.
"Wal-mart has a profit of about $14 billion a year," he said. "I don’t need $14 bilion. I wouldn’t know what to do with it. I earn enough to take care of my needs."
DeAngelis, who lives in Selden and has four children and seven grandchildren, said he maintains an active lifestyle in walking, hiking, and working out with a personal trainer. He said he frequently spends time at his cabin in Maine, said he said he has traveled three-quarters of the way around the world – and said he hopes to complete that accomplishment soon by traveling to China.
One of the secrets to longevity, DeAngelis said, is to eliminate stress.
"This is what I tell my clients. I say, 'What are you stressed about?'" he said. "If you have a day where there isn’t a problem, something’s wrong. Learn how to handle your problems and where’s the stress? It goes away. You got a problem, solve it. Don’t fuss over it."