Saturday, April 13, 2013

Walgreens opens in Miami,1936: broilators, coffee vaculators, cigars, malteds and ...

Soda jerk flipping ice cream into a malted shake, invented at Walgreens.
 This photo was NOT at Walgreens

 By Jane Feehan

The first Walgreens in Miami opened Nov. 7, 1936. Located at Flagler Street and Miami Avenue, the 4,500 square-foot store garnered front-page coverage in the Miami News

“It will open to reveal one of the largest drug stores in the state,” wrote the reporter. “Completely modern, air-conditioned, modern in every sense … Walgreen’s will become an important addition to Miami as a shopping center.”
Times Square, 1945. Can you spot Walgreens?

Charles R. Walgreen, Sr. opened his first pharmacy in Chicago in 1901. By 1910 he owned two stores. Competition was stiff but he kept ahead of the pack with fast service, a wide selection of products and innovation.

Soda fountains were the rage throughout the United States during the 1890s. They closed during winter months because productsice cream and cold drinkswere warm-weather oriented. Charles Walgreen opened the first year-round soda fountain serving sandwiches, soup and other meals. Another innovation: Walgreen Co. was the first drugstore chain in the U.S. to advertise on the radio. Contributing to a list of Walgreen firsts was employee Ivar “Pop” Coulson. He developed the first malted milk shake by adding two scoops of ice cream to a chocolate malted milk, firmly placing the Walgreen name in the lexicon of American culture.

By 1929 there were 525 Walgreen stores. The one in Miami opened when, like other cities across the country, it needed jobs; those were Depression years.  The new store offered employment to forty four Miami residents.  And these people were lucky, perhaps, in another way: the store was air-conditioned.

The news article about the opening discussed the air-conditioning at great length, and at the top of the story, such was its importance. “Air-conditioning is automatically controlled, providing comfortable temperatures for customers and employees year round. A duct system draws a constant supply of fresh air from outside. An arrangement of air ducts circulates air under steady pressure …”

The reporter also waxed enthusiastic about décor and equipment.

“The all metal soda counter is a striking feature 47 feet long with the soda dispensing section finished in soft green enamel.”  Twenty four “deeply up-holstered [sic] stools with low backs” sat in front of the counter.   Seating for 84 more luncheon patrons was provided by tables and booths. Deep fryers, salad tables, “broilaters,” “automatic toasters” and glass coffee “vaculators” were also part of the equipment inventory.

This modern store, managed by C.A. David, also offered a tobacco “division” near the main entrance with cigarettes and “cigars up to the finest Havanas.” And, there was an electric goods department“the result of several years of study and research by the company’s experts,”with toasters, radios, electric irons, food mixers, curling irons and flash lights.” There was a film department with “motion picture cameras” and photo processing. Walgreens also provided an area with wines and another for glassware sales. Even by today’s standards, this was quite a range of products.

Reminding the reader of the company’s roots the reporter wrote: “The prescription department is resplendent in white woodwork and clear glass symbolizing the Walgreen regard for purity and cleanliness in compounding prescriptions.”

Walgreens still resides at Flagler and Miami Avenue. There are more than 8,000 in the U.S.
Miami News, Nov. 6, 1936. 

Tags: Miami history, Miami retail history, Walgreens history, Miami during the 1930s, Florida film researcher, historical research

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