Drug Store Makeover

Walgreens opens upscale flagship site in Chicago Loop

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

CHICAGO -- At the bustling corner of Randolph and State, beneath the iconic Chicago Theater sign, the old Walgreens drug store has undergone a transformation.

If this newly opened flagship store is any indication, the pharmacy and one-hour photo place is taking on a more upscale flavor, with sushi chefs, a juice-and-yogurt bar, gourmet meals and take-home delicacies both familiar and exotic. It's a mix of convenience store and grocery, a kind of grab-and-go Trader Joe's.

Walking in on the store's opening day yesterday, the initial focus was three sushi chefs busily preparing takeout trays behind a gondola of prepared, single-serve sandwiches, wraps and sushi options.

But just when as the healthier-for-you tone was set, a friendly employee comes up to customers with a tray of bite-sized cupcakes, each crowned with a healthy dollop of whipped cream.

Watch the CSP video below or click here.

In a statement, Greg Wasson, president and CEO of Walgreens, described the store has having "our most innovative, forward-thinking initiatives" under one roof. He said, "We're offering the ultimate in service, convenience, assortment and community pharmacy."

Some of the store's main-floor features included:

  • A juice bar with made-to-order smoothies and stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Hand-rolled sushi prepared daily.
  • An "Upmarket Cafe" with a barista making premium coffee.
  • A display island selling fresh flowers.
  • Produce, on-the-go meal options such as wraps, sandwiches and salads.
  • A Coca-Cola Freestyle machine serving 130 flavors.
  • 700 wines, along with an open display of gourmet cheeses and meats.

An escalator ride to the second floor reveals a greeting-card section and aisles and aisles of health-and-beauty items. A significant variety of cosmetics, perfumes and skin-care brands make up the offer, with trained advisors available to help customers.

The pharmacy features an iPad-equipped health guide to help customers navigate the range of products, services and resources in the store, including immunizations and health tests. The pharmacy also features an "Ask Your Pharmacist" desk, consultation rooms, a "Health Corner" space to host health and wellness events and "Express Rx" kiosk for fast checkout.

The Take Care Clinic in the store offers services such as vaccinations, health tests, physicals and treatments for common illnesses and minor injuries.

"This unique urban retailing concept raises the bar for drug-store retailing and sets us apart in our industry," said Joe Magnacca, president of daily living products and solutions for Walgreens. "As we transform from a traditional drug store to a retail health and daily living destination, this store demonstrates how we are a central part of life for many who live and work in this dynamic and thriving community."

Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens is one of the nation's largest drug-store chains with fiscal 2011 sales of $72 billion. The company operates 7,818 drug stores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Each day, the chain provides nearly 6 million customers with pharmaceutical products and wellness services.

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
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