Ref NoWBA/WG
TitleWalgreens
DescriptionThis collection comprises the records of Walgreens and its subsidiary companies.
LevelFonds
Administrative HistoryWalgreens was founded in 1901 by Charles Walgreen in Chicago Illinois. The first store was located in Barrett's Hotel at 4134 Cottage Grove Avenue on Chicago's South Side. Charles Walgreen purchased the store from Isaac Blood, his former employer. The store was originally built in anticipation of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition and when Walgreen first took charge, the store was struggling due to it being dimly lit and poorly merchandised. Charles Walgreen's first challenge was to refresh the store layout, review the selection of goods on sale and improve the service and pricing. Walgreen’s second store was purchased in 1909 from his former employer, William Valentine, at 39th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, with the support of a former colleague Arthur C. Thorsen. Thorsen became a joint owner in the original store under the company name Thorsen and Walgreen and Charles Walgreen owned and operated the second store under the title C. R .Walgreen & Company. Charles used his second store to try out new product and display ideas. Chicago's South Side remained for many years the base for Walgreen's operations and the area in which he opened his first few stores. By 1916 there were 9 Walgreens stores, around half of which were Walgreen-Thorsens and half C. R. Walgreen & Co.

In 1919 a customer newsletter known as Pepper Pod was produced, which by 1925 had evolved into an employee newsletter and by 1933 had become a magazine.

Walgreens acquired its first store in Chicago's central business district in 1921 at 17 E. Washington Street. It was in this store that a Walgreens soda fountain manager invented the chocolate malted milkshake in 1922, which became a customer favourite.
In 1926 the 100th Walgreens store opened in Chicago and the following year company shares were made available to the public. By the end of the 1920s Walgreens store numbers had risen to 525 stores across the US.

One of the most significant expansions during the 1930s was the establishment of an agency cooperative purchasing system, whereby Walgreens products became available in a number of independent pharmacies. By 1934, there were 600 agencies in 33 US states, stocking over 1,000 Walgreens products. At its peak the Walgreens Agency system had more than 2,000 participants within the network. The system continued until 1980, when the administration of the cooperative purchasing program was discontinued.

In 1939 Charles R. Walgreen, Jr. took over the presidency of the company shortly before the death of his father at the age of 66. In his will, Walgreen Sr. bequeathed $50,000 worth of Walgreen Co. stock to establish the Walgreen Benefit Fund. The fund provided emergency help to past and present employees during those difficult economic times and continues to assist employees today.

During World War II, Walgreens established a pharmacy in the Pentagon, with all proceeds going to the war effort.

In 1946 the company acquired its first pharmacy outside of the US, with the purchase of Sanborn's, a prestigious retail outlet in Mexico.

In May 1949 the company’s general offices were moved to Peterson Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. In October that year the company opened a large new store at 'the world’s busiest corner’ - on State & Madison in Chicago. The store comprised 28 complete departments and required a staff of 350.

At the time of the company’s 50th anniversary in 1951, the number of stores were 406.

The company reduced the number of working hours per week for store employees from a six-day, forty-four-hour week to a five-day forty–hour-week, in 1952.

Walgreens was one of the first multiple pharmacy-chain businesses to see the significance of 'self-service' shopping and by 1953, had become the largest self-service retailer in the US. By the end of the 1950s nearly half of Walgreens stores offered self-service shopping and nearly a quarter of the 422 stores were in ‘drive-in’ shopping centres with ample parking lots.
By 1960, Walgreens was dispensing over 6 million prescriptions per year.

The first Puerto Rico Walgreen Farmacia opened in a shopping centre in a San Juan suburb in 1960. By 2001 the numbers had grown to just over 50 stores. The company also extended its interests into discount retail by purchasing three large ‘Globe Discount City’ stores in Houston, Texas, as well as seven smaller ‘Danburg’ units.

The company also extended its food business in the 1960s with the opening of a number of restaurants: the ‘Villager Room’ in Oak Park, Illinois, offered ‘deluxe dining’; Corky's in 1967 was positioned as a convenient drive-in, dine-in and take away offer and ‘Robin Hood’ a medieval-themed restaurant opened in Denver, Colorado, in 1968.

The 1960s was a decade of rapid store expansion. In 1967 the company acquired the Payless Drug Stores in New Mexico, the Midland Drug Co. and Odessa Drug Co. of Texas, which brought the store numbers up to 529, across 34 states and in Puerto Rico. Stores also became larger with the introduction of Walgreens ‘Super Centers’ in 1964.

Six major distribution centres were operational by the end of the 1960s, four of which were opened during the decade. All of the centres were equipped with the latest electronic data-processing systems.

In 1969 Charles Walgreen III became the company's president and in 1975 Walgreen Co. moved into new corporate headquarters in Deerfield, Illinois. In 1976 Charles Walgreen III became the company Chairman and Robert L. Schmitt took the role of President.

By the 1970s Walgreens Laboratories were producing over 500 own brand health, beauty and household products which were sold through Walgreens stores, Globe, and Walgreen Agency stores.

The company acquired International Travel Service in 1971, which specialised in group tours.

A new partnership was formed in 1976 called Schnucks-Walgreens to operate combination food stores and pharmacies.
Wag's, a 24-hour family restaurant was opened in 1976 which was named after the company's New York Stock Exchange symbol, however the restaurant division was sold in 1988 to enable the company to focus on its drugstore business.
In 1977 Charles R Walgreen, Jr. retired from the Board of Directors and in 1978 Fred Canning was named President and Chief Operating Officer after the death of Robert L. Schmitt.

A new acquisition in 1980, the Rennebohm chain of 21 stores, opened up a new market for the business in Madison, Wisconsin. Healthcare services were also expanded that year with the sale of home health care aids in a number of stores in Milwaukee and the growth of prescription service contracts with Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO’s). Home Medical Centres were also first opened in the early 1980s in Chicago, which sold convalescence aids.

By 1983 all Walgreens pharmacies were computerized, using the company’s in-house system, Intercom. Primarily designed to improve communication between the stores and head office, it recorded patient information, updated prescription prices and provided insurance information for customers.

Store numbers continued to expand in the 1980s and in 1984 Walgreens opened its 1,000th store at 1200 N. Dearborn in Chicago. In 1986, with the purchase of 66 Medi Mart stores, the company achieved its largest ever acquisition to date.
L. Daniel Jorndt was elected to the position of President and Chief Operating Officer in 1990.

The company created a subsidiary business in the early 1990s called Walgreens Health Services with Robert H Halaska as its President. The purpose was to create a fully integrated pharmacy service, either in store or through a mail service. A mail service distribution centre was opened in Orlando, Florida, which was able to distribute 5,000 prescriptions a day.
In 1994 the company opened a record breaking 196 stores in one year and reached its 2,000th store which opened in Cleveland, Ohio in November of that year.

Charles R Walgreen III retired from his role of Chief Executive Officer in 1997, but remained as Chairman of the Board. L. Daniel Jorndt became President and Chief Executive Officer of the company.

Another milestone was reached in 2000 with the opening of the 3000th store at Halsted and Monroe, Chicago.
Walgreens acquired the Happy Harry’s drugstore chain in 2006, which added 76 stores to its property portfolio, mainly in Delaware. The following year the company acquired Option Care, a network of over 100 pharmacies in 34 states, which provided a range of speciality pharmacy and home infusion services. In 2010 Walgreens acquired the New York drugstore chain, Duane Reade.

Charles R Walgreen III retired as Chairman of the Board in 2010, after 46 years of service.

In 2012 Walgreens and Alliance Boots entered into a strategic partnership. The following year Walgreens and Alliance Boots entered into a long-term relationship with AmerisourceBergen to collaborate on global supply chain opportunities.
Walgreens exercised the right to complete the second stage of its strategic partnership with Alliance Boots and on 31st December 2014, to two companies came together to form the first global pharmacy-led, health and wellbeing enterprise, Walgreens Boots Alliance.
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