Independent business owner thrives against corporate Goliaths
Devz Pharmacy a Canton Township fixture thanks to its care-first game plan
There is no room for complacency for independent business owners competing daily with corporate Goliaths.
No one knows this better than Washdev Mata, the owner of Canton Township’s Devz Pharmacy.
Mata could write a “How To” book on thriving in the shadow of giants like CVS and Walgreen’s — two companies he formerly worked for.
Since opening on Nov. 23, 2013 — “We were scheduled to open on 11/12/13, but got delayed,” Mata revealed, smiling — Devz has built a loyal and growing customer base thanks to its owner’s around-the-clock hustle and innovation.
“I worked 16 years as a pharmacy manager and supervisor for Rite-Aid and Perry Drug Stores, and seven years for Walgreen’s before I opened my own pharmacy almost nine years ago,” Mata said. “The reason I’m successful is I learned from what they’re doing wrong.
“The big corporate pharmacies lack the human factor. People want respect and they want answers. If myself and my staff can’t answer a customer’s questions quickly, we’ll take the time to look it up. Customers don’t leave my place without answers.”
Devz recently placed first in an online “Best Pharmacies in Canton” poll conducted by nextdoor.com.
Along with reliability and hustle, among Devz’ most appealing trademarks is convenience. Mata offered one of the first drive-through prescription pick-up windows in the area and is the only pharmacy in Canton and surrounding communities open on holidays and late on weekend nights, he emphasized.
“There used to be a 24-hour pharmacy on every corner; they’re all gone now, except for us,” Mata said. “If one of my customers has an emergency after business hours, I’ll meet them at the pharmacy to help them out. People appreciate it when you go the extra mile for them.
“Someone told me recently that a person in line in front of them at Walgreen’s was frustrated because they couldn’t have their prescription filled. Another person told them, ‘Go to Devz, they’ll help you’.”
Mata is the owner of a compelling backstory. Born and raised in Afghanistan, he fled the Russia-invaded country in 1982 to seek a better life in the United States. As depicted in an article in the June 7, 1982 edition of Newsweek magazine, Mata endured seven months in a New York City detention center because he was considered an illegal immigrant.
Once released, he moved to Oak Park, Michigan, to live with family. Mata ultimately earned a five-year degree from the Wayne State University College of Pharmacy, which launched his incredibly successful career.
“Prior to opening Devz, I owned a test-market store in Detroit for 18 months, but the area was bad, we had a couple of break-ins and I was mugged,” he recounted. “I had always wanted to own property in Canton because I love the community.
“Our customer base is so diverse. Our demographics run from newborns to senior citizens and we serve people from every culture. Canton is right in the middle of a lot of activity, which I love.”
As someone who understands the value of small details — distributing small toys to customers children and dog treats to those with pets, to name two — Mata’s passion for quality customer service helped his independent business survive the COVID-19 pandemic and a five-month-long construction project on Canton Center Road, directly in front of his business.
“The drive-through is what saved me during COVID,” he said. “And with the construction, my customers are willing to stand a little inconvenience because they know I’m there to help them and they want to help me as a result.”
Mata said he has plans to expand his building by close to 4,000 feet thanks to an expanse of land that sits unoccupied behind his site at 6624 N Canton Center Road.
Mata’s office is decorated by his own artwork: a series of spot-on pencil drawings of people who have influenced him, including Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King and Johnny Cash.
There is also a collection of pharmacy artifacts — a pharmacy museum, if you will — laid out near the rear of Devz.
But the main attraction of the space is the customer service Mata and his staff delivered — a necessary component when you’re doing daily battles against a world of Goliaths.
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