'If we’ve proven one concept, it’s that you can take care of people in this corporate climate.'

Kelly and Kandi Hunt, a husband-and-wife business team, joke that they’d be a lot skinnier if they didn’t run a traditional family pharmacy.

Customers show up at their Upstate business with foil-covered goodies in hand. One regular even brought a flat of flowers and planted them in front of their store.

“If we’ve proven one concept, it’s that you can take care of people in this corporate climate,” Kelly said. “Most of our customers know us by name. They know our children.”

Kelly and Kandi Hunt visit with Dr. Arnold Karig (center), dean emeritus, and one of their instructors during pharmacy school.

Kandi visited one customer in a nursing home every week during the woman’s final months. And each year the couple brings gift baskets to families of customers who died.

“That’s just part of continuing to care,” Kelly said. “They’re still really important to us.”

Kandi’s father, Charles Noplis, graduated from the MUSC College of Pharmacy in 1976. Kandi grew up working at his Kentucky pharmacy every summer, running the soda fountain and sweeping floors. She and Kelly, who met as classmates, modeled their business after that experience and the driving force behind it: taking care of people.

When they graduated from the MUSC College of Pharmacy in 1995, the Hunts both went to work for pharmacies within large corporate retail stores. They took notes on what worked – and what they didn’t like.

“Chains want you to do more with less people and not spend time with customers,” Kandi said recently.

The couple opened Kelly’s Family Pharmacy in Easley in 2008 and found a market that embraced their business style. In 2011 they opened FirstChoice Pharmacy in Greenville.

They recently established a scholarship to help pharmacy students with similar entrepreneurial ambitions and a passion for patient care. “We wanted to be able to improve that person’s life with a little bit of scholarship money,” Kelly said. He and Kandi budgeted to provide a gift to a new student every year.

Aaron Smith (left), first recipient of the Hunts' scholarship, compares bow ties with Kelly.

Aaron Smith, the first recipient and a member of the class of 2019, met Kelly at a dean’s conference before he received the Hunts’ scholarship. He calls that moment “the most beneficial handshake I ever made.”

Smith said Kelly handed him a bowtie-shaped business card and told him to call any time to talk about his goals to be self-employed one day.

“When you talk to him, you wouldn’t know he owns several pharmacies,” Smith said. “He’s a very humble guy. Two months later, I got the scholarship from him.”

Smith, who went to Appalachian State University on a wrestling scholarship, spends his free time as a volunteer assistant coach at Goose Creek High School. He earned the Most Outstanding Volunteer Award at the College of Pharmacy for his work with the team, although he missed the awards ceremony because it conflicted with wrestling practice. 

The Hunts, parents to three children, take special interest in people who mentor the next generation. Kelly remembers an instructor who helped him refine his Myrtle Beach style of flip-flops and T-shirts, and Kandi still uses memory devices that one instructor imparted to her in pharmacy school.

When they return to campus, they offer similar wisdom to current students, often providing a meal as well. Smith said the couple’s involvement resonated with him as much as the Hunts’ generosity.

“They come to campus often,” Smith said. “It’s nice to have alumni who show up and want to give back.”