Chicago Tribune, Composite November 2, 1930 & December 12, 1939
Signs of a definite pickup in sales of the Walgreen drug store chain are seen by Charles R. Walgreen, president and principal owner, who estimates total sales for the nine months of $38,485,000. October sales volume, he said, will not be lower than the September figure of $4,082,000. Earnings per share on the common stock should approximate $1.50 for the month period this year, he said.
The story of the rise of the Walgreen business from a neighborhood drug store on the south side to the second largest drug chain in the country, is that of a man who once thought that Chicago had too many drug stores, lost interest in his own, but came to realize that his best opportunity was in the line of business he knew best and grown up with. His real career began near middle age.
Mr. Walgreen was born Oct. 9, 1873, on a farm in Knox county, near Galesburg, Ill., the son of Charles and Ellen Walgreen. Both parents came to this country from Sweden. The family moved to Dixon, Ill., in 1887. After education in the Dixon public schools and business college, Mr. Walgreen started work in a Dixon factory. One day the first joint of a finger on his left hand was severed by a machine.
A strange little accident of fate put Mr. Walgreen in the drug store business during his youth at Dixon, Ill. lever on some shoe machinery in a factory where he was working caught his attention. He monkeyed with it—stepped on the pedal. Off came the first of a finger on his left hand.
TOP: The first Walgreen’s was in Barrett’s Hotel at Cottage Grove and Bowen Avenue on Chicago’s South Side. He bought the store from pharmacist Isaac Blood.
BOTTOM: Interior of the first store. Charles Walgreen is credited with making the store more welcoming by installing brighter lights, adding new products, like pots and pans, and greeting customers by name.
His accident gave him a distaste for factory life and turning to other fields, he became an apprentice pharmacist in D. S. Horton’s drug store. Soon the opportunities of a larger city beckoned, and in 1893 he came to Chicago. He had $20.
Mr. Walgreen found work as an $18 a week clerk to a drug store while he studied pharmacy at night. He worked in four stores prior to the Spanish-American war. Then he enlisted as a private in Company L of the 1st Illinois volunteer infantry.
Mr. Walgreen returned from the war, broken in health. He found work in a drug store at 4134 Cottage Grove avenue.
In 1902 his employer, I. W. Blood, wanted to get out of business and was willing to sell to his chief clerk. Drawing on his savings, Mr. Walgreen borrowed the rest for a down payment and purchased the business. It took him four years to pay off, but he opened his first store.
At this point in his career, Mr. Walgreen momentarily lost interest in his business. Convinced that Chicago had too many drug stores, he let his clerk run the store while he made the grain pit at the Chicago Board of Trade his headquarters.
Learns Another Lesson.
It was there that Mr. Walgreen learned another lesson about financial success. He found that rewards came only to the professionals, those who put every energy into their work. Mr. Walgreen returned to his drug business determined to carve a career in the line he knew best.
In 1909 another druggist, W. B. Valentine, who had formerly employed Mr. Walgreen, offered to sell his store at 39th and Cottage Grove avenue. Mr. Walgreen bought it and the Walgreen chain was started. He borrowed to make the first $5,000 payment on his $15,000 purchase. He had decided that Chicago might have too many drug stores, but not enough of the Walgreen kind.
Another one was opened a few blocks away, putting him deeper in debt. Buth three stores did not require three times as much as one store. He could piece out from one store to another.
In 1913 he began his first large scale expansion. In that year the company owned five stores. In 1920 it operated 23. By 1927 the number was 110, and two years later, 325.
The Walgreen chain began acquiring new links and has now expanded to 443 stores, reaching from coast to coast, although preponderantly midwestern. Los Angeles has three. Annual gross amounts to $50,000,000. Its rapid growth is illustrated as follows:
Sales Increase by Leaps.
In 1914 Walgreens sales amounted to $25,000. In 1918 they had grown to $43,000, and by 1920 were $67,000. How sales volume has multiplied by leaps is shown by the following table of net sales since 1923 (as of Dec. 31)”
In 1928 the Walgreen company listed 45,000 shares of $100 per preferred on the New York Stock Exchange. Common stock and warrants is also traded on the Chicago Board of Trade, currently selling around $25. Net profit for the six months ended June 30 was $912,592, equal to 86 cents a share on the common. Net profit (as of Dec. 31) is shown over the last few years by the following:
“I wish I could honestly say that I foresaw the great growth of my company, but I can’t say no. No one is more surprised than I am. When the Walgreen chain was doing $1,000,000 annual gross I was just as much thrilled as I now am at a $50,000,000 yearly sales volume. I still have the outlook of an independent store owner,” said Walgreen.
A two-thirds control is held by the Walgreen family and executives. The nine directors are all in the company’s employ. A son, Charles Jr., and son-in-law, Justin Dart, likewise work in the business.
Never Forgets a Friend.
His associates say that Mr. Walgreen never forgot a friend. They tell of Charles Morton, a colored porter, who worked with Mr. Walgreen on his first job. They became friends and corresponded during the Spanish-American war.
When Mr. Walgreen returned in poor health, Morris and his wife nursed him. Later they lost track of each other. Morris moved to Watsecka. One day in 1930 he saw a Walgreen advertisement and wondered if it was his old friend. Morris wrote a letter. The response was immediate—a lifetime job.
Mr. Walgreen was one of Chicago’s earliest aviation enthusiasts. In 1928 he bought a $54,000 11 passenger Sikorsky amphibion and the following year donated an airport to his home town. At the same time he also bought Hazelwood, an historic estate on the Rock river near Dixon, for a summer home.
In April, 1935, Mr. Walgreen removed his niece from the University of Chicago, charging that she had become indoctrinated with communism and other un-American beliefs by her professors.
Legislative Inquiry Follows.
His charges resulted in a legislative inquiry. Eventually the university was cleared, but the committee, which held open hearings, severely criticized one faculty member, Prof. Robert Morss Lovett, for his Red enthusiasms.
Mr. Walgreen and Robert M. Hutchins, president of the university, continued the discussions begun at the conference table. As a result, on June 5, 1937, Mr. Walgreen announced the gift of $550,000 to establish the Walgreen Foundation for research and instruction in American institutions.
In the spring of 1939, Mr. Walgreen was one of the leading candidates when the Republican state central committee me to select a national committeeman to succeed the late George F. Harding. Mr. Walgreen led on the first seven ballots, but finally was defeated by Hill Blackett, advertising executive.
Walgreen’s Window Display
Chicago Tribune, April 23, 1910
Blood Walgreen drug company, Chicago; name changed to Walgreen & Thorsen.
Walgreens’ employee Ivar “Pop” Coulson made a milkshake by adding two scoops of vanilla ice cream to the standard malted milk drink recipe (milk, chocolate syrup and malt powder). This item, under the name “Horlick’s Malted Milk,” was featured by the Walgreen drugstore chain as part of a chocolate milk shake, which itself became known as a “malted” or “malt” and became one of the most popular soda-fountain drinks. Customers stood three and four deep around the soda fountain to buy the “double-rich chocolate malted milk.”
An early Walgreen’s store featuring the new milk shake. The original recipe for Old Fashioned Chocolate Malted Milk:
1½ oz. Chocolate Syrup
3 – #16 Dips of Vanilla Ice Cream
5½ oz. of Cold Milk
Add Malt Powder (One Heaping Tablespoonful)
Place On Mixer Only Until Mixed – Do Not Over Mix
Use a Generous Portion of Whipped Topping In A #1808 – 10 oz. Glass
Pour Malted Milk in Glass Approximately 2/3 Full
Serve Remainder Of Malted In A Shaker Along With The Glass To The Guest With Straws and Package of Fountain Treat Cookies
Like other drug stores of the time, Walgreen’s locations had a soda and ice cream fountain that did great business in hot weather. Instead of shuttering the counter in the winter, Charles Walgreen decided to start serving hot food, at first home-cooked by his wife Myrtle Walgreen. Early menu items included chicken, egg salad sandwiches, bean soup and cakes or pies for dessert, according to the company. As the company grew, the stores included full diners, such as this dinner in 1924 at 79th and Halstead Streets.
Also, a 1929 Walgreen’s menu.
Chicago Tribune, October 15, 1926
Chicago Tribune, July 1, 1927
On July 1, 1927, Walgreens opened a new store at the Montgomery Ward Tower Building.
Chicago Tribune, December 2, 1927
On December 2, 1927, Walgreens opened a new store at the Medical and Dental Arts Building.
1933-1934—A Century of Progress
Walgreens helped celebrate Chicago’s World Fair. The company opened four stores on the Century of Progress fairgrounds. These stores experimented with advanced fixture design, new lighting techniques and colors — ideas that helped modernize drugstore layout and design. They also issued a commemorative coin.
Chicago Tribune, December 12, 1939
Charles R. Walgreen, who began his business career as a country pharmacist’s apprentice and became head of a far flung chain of nearly 500 drug stores, died last night in his home at 4441 Drexel boulevard.
Mr. Walgreen had been in ill health for several months. Last summer he turned over the greater part of his business affairs to younger men; he no longer felt able to direct operations of the system he founded with a single establishment in Chicago’s south side, bought with borrowed funds in 1907.
Death Comes at 66.
His health did not improve materially, however. Yesterday friends were informed the end was near Death, from a complication of diseases, came at 11:10 o’clock. Mr. Walgreen was 66 years old.
Private funeral services, to be attended only by members of the family, will be held tomorrow in Dixon, Ill., where Mr. Walgreen had spent much of his boyhood. However, for the benefit of his friends and others who desire to see the body it will be in the Lain & Son funeral chapel, 316 West 63d street, this afternoon and evening.
He left behind him a record of wide interests of development of modern merchandising methods and of philanthropies that ran into several millions of dollars.
Also in 1939, Walgreen executives, pharmacists and truckers load hundreds of Christmas baskets to be delivered to be personally delivered to families in need.
Chicago Tribune, March 14, 1948
A new office building for Walgreen company was announced to be constructed at 4250 Peterson av. from plans by A. Epstein & Sons, Inc., engineer,
Chicago Tribune, September 22, 1948
Grand Opening of Walgreens on the southeast corner of Chicago and Michigan.
Chicago Tribune, June 29, 1956
Chicago Tribune sponsored advertisement promoting Walgreen’s as one of their biggest advertisers.
Chicago Tribune, March 18, 1968
In 1968, Walgreens became the first major drug chain to put its prescriptions into child-resistant containers, long before it was required by law.
September 6, 1984
The 2,000th store opened in Cleveland.
Intercom Plus, Walgreens advanced computer system, completed rollout to all stores. Intercom Plus speeds the prescription-filling process, permits better patient counseling and is the leading pharmacy system in the industry.
Charles Walgreen III retired. L. Daniel Jorndt is named chairman.
Walgreens reached the 3,000-store mark when its location at Halsted and Monroe in Chicago opened.
Walgreens celebrated its centennial in June and rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
Walgreens became the first drugstore chain to offer prescription labels in multiple languages chainwide. Today, labels can be printed in one of 14 languages — Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese and English.
Walgreens reached the 4,000-store mark when its location at Coldwater Canyon Avenue and Magnolia Boulevard in Van Nuys, Calif., opened in March. L. Daniel Jorndt retired and David Bernauer was named chairman.
Walgreens opened its 5,000th store in Richmond, Va., in October.
In July, president Jeffrey A. Rein was named CEO while former CEO and chairman David W. Bernauer continued as chairman. Also in July, Walgreens acquired Happy Harry’s drugstore chain, adding 76 stores, primarily in Delaware. In the fall, Walgreens began offering in-store health clinics, called Health Corner Clinics, with nurse practitioners treating walk-in patients for common ailments. During 2006, clinics opened in St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago and Atlanta.”
Walgreens acquired Take Care Health Systems and with the acquisition, it expects to have more than 400 clinics by the end of 2008. Also in 2007, chairman David W. Bernauer retired and Jeffrey A. Rein became chairman and CEO. Gregory D. Wasson was named president and COO. In the summer of 2007, Walgreens acquired Option Care, a network of more than 100 pharmacies (including more than 60 company-owned) in 34 states, providing a full spectrum of specialty pharmacy and home infusion services. In the fall of 2007, Walgreens opened its first store in Hawaii in Honolulu and celebrated the opening of its 6,000th store in New Orleans.
Walgreens completed its acquisitions of worksite health care providers I-trax/CHD Meridian Healthcare and Whole Health Management. Jeff Rein retires as CEO, and Alan McNally is named the company’s chairman of the board and acting CEO.
Greg Wasson is appointed as CEO of the company. Walgreens opened its first store in Alaska, marking its presence in all 50 states. The company celebrated the opening of its 7,000th store nationwide with a grand opening in Brooklyn, N.Y. Walgreens offered H1N1 vaccinations at all of its pharmacies and Take Care Clinics nationwide to fight the flu pandemic.
Charles R. Walgreen III retired from the company’s board of directors after 46 years of service. Walgreens completed its acquisition of the Duane Reade drugstore chain in New York. Walgreens opened its first Well Experience format stores in Oak Park and Wheeling, IL.
Walgreens President and CEO Greg Wasson joined First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House to announce Walgreens commitment to convert or open at least 1,000 food oasis stores across the country over the next five years, helping to serve people in communities that currently lack access to healthy and affordable foods including fruits and vegetables. Walgreens completed its acquisition of online retailer drugstore.com. Walgreens introduced Web Pickup service in the Chicago area, combining the convenience of online shopping with its neighborhood stores. Duane Reade opened its flagship store at 40 Wall Street in Manhattan, NY. Walgreens announced plans to offer electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at about 800 locations across the country. The company marked its continued commitment to sustainability with its 100th rooftop solar power system installation at a store in Mason, Ohio.
Chicago Tribune, January 10, 2012
Sushi? Manicure? A $2,000 bottle of cognac?
Seeking to shake free from the sterile, bigbox mold of being a national drugstore chain, Deerfield-based Walgreen Co. hopes to turn heads and lure shoppers with a variety of unexpected offerings Tuesday when it opens its 27,350-square-foot flagship store at State and Randolph streets.
The sushi bar, 700-bottle wine selection and miniature spa are likely to first catch shoppers’ eyes. But the two-level, glass-encased store’s revamped pharmacy and health clinic are what company officials hope keep customers coming back.
The updated layout-which creates a space on the sales floor where the pharmacist can interact directly with customers-is part of the company’s strategy to expand its health care services beyond pharmacy, in part to
capitalize on national health care reform legislation, which requires nearly all Americans to carry health insurance by 2014.
By expanding its health care services and improving customers’ direct access to providers, Walgreens is investing in the premise that quick, convenient and inexpensive access to health care will drive customer traffic and sales.
Walgreens is not alone in its strategy to enhance its so-called “community pharmacist” health care connection, said Carol Levenson, director of research for GimmeCredit LLC. Most major drugstore chains are pushing specialized services to increase customer traffic, especially as more patients get their drugs via mail order, she said.
Walgreens’ move to put its pharmacists in front of customers “is probably a shrewd move to personalize and differentiate” their services, Levenson said. But it’s “not a market moving innovation, in my view,” she said.
Kermit Crawford, Walgreens’ president of pharmacy, health and wellness services, said the company’s move deeper into the healthcare
system is the best and most forward looking way for Walgreens to take advantage of its nationwide reach.
“The pill is no longer the product,” Crawford said. “Our product now is customer service and relationships with our customers that result in better health outcomes for patients and payers.”
Walgreens celebrated the official opening of a new two-story, flagship store at 1488 Kapiolani Blvd., Honolulu, in the popular Ala Moana shopping district on Saturday, Feb. 21 at 9 a.m. The location features an extensive collection of innovative offerings, products and services unexpected from a drugstore. This is Walgreens 15th flagship store, and its 12th store on Oahu and 18th in Hawai‘i. The culturally inspired design reflects elements of traditional Hawaiian architecture, as well as embraces components of the natural landscape.
Walgreesns Flagship Store
2015-2020 (Closed in 2020)
Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. was #10 on the Top 100 Largest US Retail Companies on World’s Largest List.
As of 2019, the company operated more than 18,750 stores worldwide.
Walgreens Press Release—June 25, 2018
Walgreens to Move Approximately 1,800 Positions to New Chicago Office
Company to Open Approximately 200,000 Square Foot Office in Chicago’s Old Post Office Building
DEERFIELD, Ill., June 15, 2018—Walgreens announced today it plans to open a new office in Chicago where it anticipates 1,800 people will be based. The new office space will include approximately 200,000 square feet in The Old Post Office building, 433 W. Van Buren St.
On Monday, Walgreens will unveil renderings of the future office at an onsite celebration with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Walgreens employees.
The Old Post Office building allows Walgreens to increase its presence in Chicago, where the company was founded in 1901, in order to meet the needs of its current and future workforce while continuing to attract and retain the best talent. The 1,800 people expected to work at the new space over time will include approximately 1,300 positions that will relocate to the City of Chicago. This will be the largest number of corporate employees Walgreens has ever had based in Chicago.
Walgreens Boots Alliance will remain headquartered in north suburban Deerfield, Ill., where approximately 3,200 employees are expected to continue to work.
Alex Gourlay, president of Walgreens, said, “Investing in our infrastructure and building our digital and technical capabilities are essential elements of our business transformation strategy, as we work to improve access for our customers and enhance the customer experience. The space in the iconic Old Post Office building allows us to attract and retain the best talent from all of Chicagoland.”
When renovations are complete, the new office space in The Old Post Office building will serve as an additional office location for Walgreens. Digital and IT operations employees supporting the Walgreens business, as well as some Walgreens Boots Alliance global IT personnel, will be located in the new office space.
The space expands the company’s Technology Center of Excellence launched last year that further combines the company’s retail pharmacy technology teams with digital, mobile and e-commerce teams who currently work in the City. As part of the new space, Walgreens will relocate its digital office currently in the Sullivan Center at 36 S. Wabash Ave. to The Old Post Office building.
“Walgreens was born in Chicago with one small pharmacy on the South Side, and their big new presence in one of our city’s most iconic locations is a great way to look to the future,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “This is a smart decision by an innovative company, it will contribute to our city’s thriving tech sector, and we are looking forward to cutting the ribbon and welcoming 1,800 members of the Walgreens team to Chicago.”
The new office at The Old Post Office is anticipated to open in fall 2019. Walgreens currently employs nearly 4,500 people in the City of Chicago, where it also operates 120 drugstores.
TOP LEFT: Rendering of exterior Chicago office in Old Post Office building
TOP RIGHT: Rendering of 4th Floor Chicago office in Old Post Office building.
BOTTOM LEFT & RIGHT: Two versions of the Main Lobby Chicago office in Old Post Office building.