NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As an essential service, community pharmacies have been on the front lines of the COVID crisis.

They have adapted and responded in order to keep providing care and services to their customers, while facing incredible challenges.

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CBS2’s Jessica Moore spoke with one Brooklyn pharmacist who became a necessity for his customers.

Throughout these past 18 months, the Rossi Pharmacy, like many independent and family-run businesses, has been a lifeline to many.

“We are situated all throughout the city in neighborhoods where health initiatives are a little harder to reach,” said Ambar Keluskar, supervising pharmacist at Rossi Pharmacy in East New York.

(credit: CBS2)

Keluskar made sure he, and the vital business, was always available for his customers, especially in the early dark days of the city’s shut down.

“From the start of the pandemic we rolled out free delivery and whatever we could to try to support patients when they had a tough time. And they, in turn, choose to support us by purchasing our products or sending their prescriptions here,” Keluskar said.

One bright spot, he said, is the stronger, deeper relationships that developed with the neighbors and customers he serves. The Rossi Pharmacy was among the first to offer vaccines, and they continue to educate and support those who ask about it.

“We have patients here a couple of minutes, diving deep into their medications and their health. So our relationships with our patients is definitely changing,” Keluskar said.

He also saw a necessary strengthening of communication between professional colleagues as well.

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“I was a really active participant in sharing any information as it came through. No pharmacy was trying to keep a secret sauce recipe for how to best do this. Everyone was extremely open and excited to make sure that everyone was providing the best possible service for our patients,” he said.

Staying the course and making business adjustments ultimately had a positive business and personal impact.

“I really appreciate that all throughout the pandemic that patients had really kind words, thanking us for staying open while everything was going on. And I really could feel the appreciation that patients were giving,” he said.

Wednesday, Keluskar rode through the Canyon of Heroes with colleagues from the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York.

“I’m really honored that they considered me for this,” Keluskar said.

He said while he’s thrilled for the once-in-a-lifetime experience, we should all have a more informed eye to the future.

“I think it’s important to push to make sure essential workers are taken care of, that safety and good working conditions are a priority for every essential worker throughout the city and state and everywhere,” he said.

But still, Keluskar said he knows how important it is to celebrate as the city returns to the strength that it’s known for, with New York saying thank you in way that only it can.

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“I think a ticker-tape parade’s an exciting way to welcome back the post-COVID world and appreciate the people that have been working hard this past year,” he said.

Jessica Moore