Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Walgreen Co.
Walgreen Co.

Walgreen Co.

In 1901, Charles R. Walgreen, a son of Swedish immigrants, started a small pharmacy at Cottage Grove and Bowen Avenues on Chicago's South Side. A second Walgreen store opened in 1909; over the next few years, the chain grew rapidly, until there were nearly 400 Walgreen pharmacies nationwide by 1929. The chain's annual sales rose from about $1.5 million in 1920 to nearly $50 million by 1929. By the mid-1930s, the company employed about 1,300 men and 1,400 women at its large manufacturing laboratory and warehouse on the South Side. After the founder died in 1939, his son Charles R. Walgreen, Jr., led the firm. The company's first self-service store (a retailing design that would become the rule throughout the industry) opened on the South Side in 1952. Annual sales for the en- tire chain passed $200 million during the 1950s and $1 billion in the 1970s, when Charles R. Walgreen III led the company. By that time, Walgreen employed about 10,000 people in the Chicago area, and it was the nation's leading drug retailer, with 650 stores nationwide (most of them in the Midwest). The corporate headquarters moved to Deerfield in 1975. The company grew quickly during the last years of the twentieth century. By the early 2000s, Walgreens could boast nearly $25 billion in annual sales from over 3,000 stores nationwide. It employed over 14,000 people in the greater Chicago area.