Walgreens wants to sell you sushi, made-to-order smoothies, and manicures at its new high-end flagships launched earlier this month in LA and Chicago. Oh there's greeting cards, Tylenol, and candy like there always have been, you'll just have to hunt around the aisles to get them. The first thing greeting shoppers when they go through the automatic doors is a set of on-site sushi chefs.
The two new extreme drugstore makeovers are patterned after the up-scale Duane Reede on New York's Wall Street boasting 23,509 square feet and cathedral-ceilings, which debuted in 2011. The company that owns Walgreens bought Duane Reade in 2010.
Besides the drugstore basics, there's plenty of extras to keep busy downtown shoppers pleased. CNBC's Jim Cramer dropped by the TODAY shoot and declared after holding aloft a bag of Lifesavers, "There hasn't been anything I've looked for that they didn't have."
Walgreens is trying to stand out from the pack of virtually identical chain drugstores dotting the country. "One of the challenges has been [that] our customers tell us that they couldn't tell the difference between a Walgreens and a CVS or a Rite Aid or something," Rob Ewing, district manager for Walgreens in Chicago told NPR. "And I think now we're kind of separating ourselves from the rest of the group."
Ewing told NPR that some of the details from the tony stores could start showing up in regular neighborhood drugstores in cities and suburbs.
"I've eaten the sushi here, I've gotten the made-to-order sandwiches, it's pretty awesome," one male shopper told TODAY, adding "you can get your eyebrows waxed, not that I did."
And how is that sushi? Better than you might expect from a place better known for filling prescriptions and late-night runs for batteries and chips. TODAY's reporter Kristen Dalhgren said, "I was one of those sushi skeptics but I did have some for lunch the other day, not bad, and I didn't even have to walk around the corner to get some Pepto-Bismol."