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Walgreen's first drug store was located in downtown Dixon.

Walgreens Drug Store Chain
Started in Dixon

Patrick Nikodem
Lincoln Hall Middle School, Lincolnwood

How did an insignificant neighborhood drugstore grow to become the country's largest pharmaceutical chain and one of the most highly regarded corporations in America? In 1901 a young man bought a small drugstore on Chicago's south side. C. R. Walgreen's innovative ideas and unique sense of hospitality enabled Walgreens to thrive and become America's premier pharmacy. The young entrepreneur Walgreen had two goals: to make an honest living and to provide fast, friendly service for his customers. Today, Walgreens is located all over America, and is one of the nation's most prominent corporations.

Walgreens started in Dixon, Illinois. It was here that C. R. Walgreen had his first experience working in a drugstore. Walgreen's first job as a pharmacist was at Horton's Drugstore, Dixon's only pharmacy.

As a child, Walgreen was very athletic and contemplated becoming a professional athlete. However, while working in a shoe factory at the age of sixteen, part of his middle finger was cut off, leaving him unable to participate in sports. After this accident, Walgreen decided to become a pharmacist, a life-defining decision. He later got a job at Horton's Drugstore for only four dollars a week.

Walgreen's experience at Horton's Drugstore turned out to be disappointing. At first, Walgreen found filling out orders for medicine and working as a cashier to be very tedious. Although he grew accustomed to his work, Walgreen thought he was not paid enough and quit his job after working for a little more than a year.


After quitting at Horton's, Walgreen aspired to manage a drugstore of his own. Walgreen carefully thought about the matter and decided that it would be best to move to a big city. Chicago was a large city and was close to home, making it ideal for Walgreen.

By 1901 C. R. Walgreen was in Chicago, looking for work. He found a very small drugstore on Chicago's south side for sale and was eager to buy it. Walgreen, unemployed and poor, did not have enough money to buy the drugstore and had to borrow from his family and friends. In April of 1901 Walgreen purchased the drugstore and named it "Walgreens."

At first, Walgreens struggled. There were many problems to be surmounted. Walgreen had to figure out how to get capital, pay employees, promote the business, and establish a customer base.

Walgreen managed to overcome these barriers and became a phenomenally successful entrepreneur due to his innovative ideas. First of all, he had the front of the pharmacy repainted to look inviting and attract customers. Inside the drugstore, the aisles were made wider to ensure comfort while shopping.

Walgreen then hired Caleb Danner, his first employee. Walgreen trained Danner to be helpful and courteous so that his business would earn a good reputation and attract customers. Walgreen and Danner did not have many customers to serve and were complimented for their fast service. The two performed a "two-minute stunt." This meant that when a customer who lived in the area called and placed an order, Walgreen repeated it slowly and conversed with the client while Danner delivered the order. The customer received the order during the conversation and was amazed at the unbelievable speed at which the order had been placed. Customers told their friends and neighbors about this, and Walgreens patronage quickly grew.

C. R. Walgreen trained all his employees to provide fast and friendly service. He made it enjoyable to work at Walgreens, and since the pharmacy had a large customer base and was doing well, employees were paid relatively high wages.Working conditions were pleasant and Walgreen had no problems finding employees.

By 1910 Walgreens had developed a large clientele, and C. R. Walgreen decided to expand. The second Walgreens was established, and soon afterward, the third. By 1920 there were more than forty Walgreens drugstores. Walgreen's corporation kept growing rapidly, and today there are more than 2, 800 locations in thirty-six states and Puerto Rico. It is remarkable that Walgreens has prospered so much over the years, despite a difficult beginning, the Great Depression, and many other obstacles.

Walgreens is advertised on billboards and commercials. These advertisements stress the fact that it is open twenty-four hours a day and claims to be the "pharmacy America trusts." Advertisements also depict Walgreens as a place where customers enjoy shopping and marvel at fast service.

As previously mentioned, Walgreens is one of the nation's most prominent corporations. It has grown from a commonplace drugstore to one of Chicago's top stock companies. Since the time an ambitious young man bought that drugstore on the south side of Chicago, Walgreens has become a pioneer in pharmaceuticals and retail sales.[From "Chicago's Top 50 stocks," Chicago Tribune, Jan. 9, 2000; J. Gremer, JobWeb-Walgreens, http: //www.]

Charles R. Walgreen moved to Chicago and established a successful pharmacy. Additional chains opened, and today Walgreens is one of the nation's most prominent drugstore chains.


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