Drive-Up Drug Store Set For 2003

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Yes, Virginia, Payson is indeed getting a brand new, free-standing Walgreens drug store on the southwest corner of Highways 87 and 260 right next to the Del Taco fast-food eatery now under construction.

But area residents will be eating burritos and chips long before they'll be picking up their prescriptions at the town's first drive-through pharmacy.

"That store won't open until July 2003," says Carol Hively, a media specialist for the drug store chain.

The opening date is so far away, in fact, that Hively can't even guess when construction might begin. But that doesn't mean she has no localized company insights to offer.

"We can say that the Payson store is part of Walgreens' long-range planning for Arizona," Hively says. "It's our goal to have 250 stores statewide by the year 2004."

The chain currently operates 170 stores across the state, and 3,420 across the nation.

According to Hively, the reason Walgreens is building a new store instead of refurbishing the current facility in the Payson Village Shopping Center, can be chalked up to the company's most recent business strategy.

"The direction that we're going with our new stores is to move a lot of the existing ones that are in strip malls to free-standing locations, where we can maximize access," she says.

"For the convenience of the public, we've found that the corner locations are really the most successful. People can quickly and easily zip in and zip back out. Typically, our customers purchase one or two items and spend no more than about six minutes in the store. So access really makes a huge difference in the success of the store."

Anyone who has taken an off-highway drive through the Valley knows the truth of that. There seems to be a Walgreens standing or under construction on every other commercially-zoned street corner.

This company has come a long way, baby.

Founded in 1901 in a building measuring just 50 feet by 20 feet, Walgreens grew to more than 500 stores by 1930. During its first half-century, Walgreens did not limit its activities to selling its two most popular products prescription drugs and ice cream.

During World War II, the company established a not-for-profit pharmacy in the Pentagon, for which it was formally recognized by President Eisenhower, and also was an important marketer of War Bonds during the war effort.

Later, Walgreens became one of the very first American companies to establish profit sharing and pension plans, to assure security for its employees.

By 1975, more than 1,500 pharmacists in 633 stores filled close to 30 million prescriptions annually four times the 7.5 million dispensed in 1962 and five million more than in 1972. And by 1984, Walgreens opened its 1,000th store.

Today, the chain opens 500 new stores annually, and a total of 6,000 is planned by 2010.

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