Tomas Diaz founded SaluMed Pharmacy on May 31st, Since 1989. At the time there was no Drug Store in the area that fulfilled the needs of the community. The community embraced us since day 1. After 24 years serving the community we still embrace every customer as if he was the first customer that walked in through our doors. In the future we would like to become a household name for the residents of Suffolk County, with an outstanding reputation.


Bid to build drugstore in Bay Shore back on track

Pharmacist Tomas Diaz speaks to a customer on















Pharmacist Tomas Diaz speaks to a customer on the phone at the SaluMed Pharmacy in Brentwood. (Feb. 13, 2012) Photo Credit: Barry Sloan


For almost 23 years, Tomas Diaz has run the SaluMed pharmacy from a bustling strip on Fifth Avenue in Bay Shore, offering customers service from a mostly bilingual Latino staff -- and a range of products, seemingly transported from the store shelves of Ecuador or El Salvador.

Among longtime, loyal locals and community leaders, SaluMed has a reputation as something of a community center -- for what it sells and the way it serves the area.

"We can't speak highly enough of Tomas," said Vivian Hart, executive director of outreach agency Pronto, which works with Diaz to get medications for some of its neediest clients at the lowest price available. "This is a person who genuinely cares and wants to serve the community."

Now averaging about 700 customers a day, Diaz's dream of building his own purpose-built pharmacy is nearing fruition. A decade ago, he purchased a vacant half-acre lot across the road on the southwest corner of Marvin Road, but Islip officials rejected his proposed expansion, mainly concerned about an overabundance of retail townwide.

Diaz considered selling the vacant property, until he heard national chain CVS was applying to open a short distance south on Fifth Avenue. "I thought, 'Why them and not us?' " he said. With attorney Lisa Pace, Diaz pleaded his case, arguing the town's vision for the area was based on outdated data and that his pharmacy offered something unique to the community.

After his many visits to Town Hall, town officials say Diaz's application is in the home stretch.

Islip planning Commissioner Dave Genaway said it will need town board approval, but he noted the area has among the lowest proportion of retail space per capita in the town. "There is newfound evidence and rationale that supports the granting of the application," he said.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Diaz, 50, attributes his pharmacy's approach to an experience as a 12-year-old. After his parents moved to Long Island from Puerto Rico in 1970, he had to act as an interpreter on a visit to a doctor with his grandmother.

It left an impression. "How did my grandmother feel, standing there trying to express herself in broken English about personal and important issues to a health professional?" he said.

Aside from filling prescriptions, or home-delivering medicines, SaluMed offers secretarial, notary and check-cashing services, and money transfers for those wanting to wire funds overseas. "We want to satisfy every single customer," said Diaz, who counts Suffolk County Community College and Brentwood High School students among his part-time staff.

Approval for his new site is being considered as the CVS application for a zoning change is due to go before the town board on March 1.

Diaz is unfazed by competition. "That's the American way. I like competition. My customers come from as far away as Patchogue, Medford, Farmingdale and Copiague -- I'm OK with them going where they get the best service . . . We just want the same opportunity."