By Evelyn Chiu
People who know New York City Council member, Peter Koo, are amazed by his energy to deal with his overwhelming daily schedule. But Koo says, “My life has always been busy. I have been working since the second day after I arrived in the U.S. After graduating from school, I worked full time at a hospital and worked part time at a pharmacy retail store at the same time. While running my own pharmacy retail store in Flushing, Queens, I worked from 6 am to 9 pm every day. And now as a Council Member, I regularly attend meetings with the local business associations and many ethnically diverse civic groups to listen to people’s concerns and try to secure funding for important community programs and services.”
In 1983, a few years after finishing his education at the University of New Mexico – College of Pharmacy, Koo and his wife moved to Flushing, Queens where his wife’s family is based. Koo started working full time at the New York Hospital at Queens (formerly Booth Memorial Hospital) as a pharmacist and also worked part time at the local pharmacy retail store where he learned how to do the retail business. In 1991, Koo’s boss at the pharmacy was planning to close the store since the rent rose dramatically from $3,000 to $7,000 a month. But Koo saw this as an opportunity to start his own business. After discussing with his family and receiving their trust and support, he succeeded the ownership from his previous boss and started his first pharmacy– the Starside Pharmacy, located at 41 Main Street, Flushing, New York.
In the first three years of running his first pharmacy, Koo only hired one cashier and one carrier, and he did the rest of the work: he worked long hours; filling prescriptions for patients, greeted customers, and developed and promoted his store. Gradually, people became familiar with Koo and liked his service, and soon Koo’s pharmacy business started taking off. In 1996, Koo opened the second Starside Pharmacy across the street from his first store. Currently, Koo owns five Starside Pharmacies in Flushing, Queens.
“Working at a pharmacy is not just about helping people fill their prescriptions to relieve their physical pain and problems, or sell other related products. The people who come to the pharmacy also share their lives and the news about the community. I listened to them, and wished I could do more than just be a pharmacist to help these people and this community to be a better place.” He continued, “Since 1992, I began joining several local organizations, such as the Flushing Chinese Business Association, serving as the President, and helped start the Flushing Business Improvement District (BID) to fight for the residents’ needs in the community.”
His pharmacy business and his involvement in several community organizations are just some of Koo’s early stops in serving the Flushing community. In 2009, Koo was elected as a New York City Council Member, representing Flushing, Queensboro Hill, Mitchell Gardens, Kissena Park, Harding Heights, Auburndale and part of White Stone. As a Council Member, Koo often visits local business schools, provides internship opportunities for high school students to work at his office, and even donates his entire salary to seven ethnic groups, including Chinese, Korean, and Jewish groups. “The reason Mr. Koo won the election in 2009 was because of his openness and friendliness towards different ethnic groups; and he sustains good relationships with them to this day,” said Koo’s Chief of Staff, James S. McClelland.
Flushing has grown to become a vibrant community and is also rated as one of the most prosperous communities in New York State. “My goal as a Council Member is to make Flushing a better place, a destination for immigration, increase job opportunities and business openings.” Aiming to win the election again for the New York City Council Member in 2013, even with a busy schedule, Koo enjoys and cherishes every moment of serving the people who live in the same community as he does.