By Kristina Houck
Growing up in a small Illinois town, Dr. James Mattioda said his local pharmacist knew everyone by name. Mattioda wanted to bring the small-town feel to this community when he opened Arcana Empothecary a few years ago.
“We’re back to providing a social environment,” said Mattioda, who has a doctorate in integral health, a license as a registered pharmacist and a diplomat of homeopathy. “We know people by their name. We know people and understand their situations. People trust us.”
Since empathy is central to their work, Mattioda said he and his five-member team consider each client holistically to address their individual needs. Therefore, Arcana Empothecary integrates herbal and nutritional supplements with conventional prescription treatments, combining traditional pharmaceutical science with knowledge of biochemistry, plant medicine and homeopathy, he said.
“We provide an environment for people and families who are looking for a place where they can access information, expertise and complementary alternative medicine,” said the Carmel Valley resident, who noted “apothecary” wasn’t a good name for the pharmacy because its root “apathy” means a lack of interest or concern. “‘Empothecary’ means we care about you.”
Mattioda was 16 years old when he realized he wanted to be a pharmacist. It was his first day as a stock boy at a new pharmacy in town.
“I wasn’t 10 feet in the door when I had an epiphany. The whole place got extremely bright and I had a huge insight into me that I was going to be a pharmacist,” he said. “I pretty much started occupying the pharmacy like I had done this before. I got to start putting up the drugs and the bottles on the shelves, and I was just fascinated with everything.”
More than 20 years after graduating from the St. Louis College of Pharmacy, Mattioda moved to San Diego and opened his first pharmacy in La Jolla in 1996. He later joined the Scripps Center for Integrated Medicine of which he is still a preferred provider.
Mattioda said he decided to open a more patient-friendly pharmacy to offer San Diegans an alternative to chain store pharmacies.
“I saw my career coming to a dead end,” Mattioda said. “What I thought I would be doing and what I thought the pharmaceutical industry would be doing was unfulfilled. It became unfulfilling.
“It wasn’t working for me and I didn’t expect that it was working for other people.”
Located at 12250 El Camino Real Suite 108, San Diego (Carmel Valley), 92130, Arcana Empothecary is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Mattioda said many of his clients have thanked him for offering a “pharmacy for me.”
“We’re a lifestyle. We have a different philosophy,” Mattioda said. “We’re serious about people’s health.”
To learn more about Arcana Empothecary, call 858-755-0288 or visit