Chain Drugstores with Operating Lunch Counters

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Great Pumpkin
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Chain Drugstores with Operating Lunch Counters

Post by Groceteria »

While driving around Asheville NC this afternoon, I ran across a late 1950s/early 1960s vintage Rite-Aid store (former Eckerd) that still had its lunch counter open and operating. Actually, it was closed at the time I was there, but it does still open for weekday lunches, apparently. I think a lot of people associate these lunch counters primarily with old downtown storefronts, but they were common in eraly shopping center locations as well (at least with Eckerd).

I'm wondering how many other large chain drugstores still have open lunch counters. I'm not talking about old independent stores nor about things like the Thrifty ice cream counters, etc., but about actual sit-down service lunch counters. Has anybody seen many of these relics? I know this is the first one I've seen in a major chain in probably a decade, if not more.
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Re: Chain Drugstores with Operating Lunch Counters

Post by rich »

Chains generally phased out these counters in the early to mid 70s, but they were features of suburban drug store branches through the 50s & 60s. Thrift (Pittsy) was opening new stores with counters as late as the early 70s. Eckerd (Erie, PA) was phasing them out by then. Marshall's/Cunningham's phased out most of them when they started their "21 stores in 1" program. Gray Drug stopped including them in new stores sometime in the 60s, but kept some going until the late 70s. Peoples had them in DC (and in suburban locations) well into the 70s. Revco removed them from chains they bought like Standard Drug in Cleveland---Revco really revolutionized drug stores by dropping the newsstand, the service cosmetic counters, and most of the non H&B stuff, while putting the prescriptions in front. Other chains never seemed quite that radical.

In general, the chains that started in the 60s (Medic, the various supermarket-related chains like SuperX, Kare, Galaxie, Medi-Mart) never had them. The last one I saw was at a drug store was an indie in the Little 5 Points area of Atlanta. I think the soda fountain was finally closed a couple years ago. It was the kind of place I went to buy the Sunday paper, but little else, but the soda fountain had a following.
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Re: Chain Drugstores with Operating Lunch Counters

Post by carolinatraveler »

The Eckerd's lunch counter that you discovered at Asheville's Grace Plaza isn't actually all that old. The shopping center opened in late 1972 or early 1973 and was home to Asheville's first large-floorplan Rose's Store (two small 5 &10 stores existed); a large Eckerd's with its coffee shop, and a Winn-Dixie that was a replacement for a 1954 location two blocks away. The center remained intact for over 20 years, then Rose's closed in the 1990s, replaced by Stein Mart. Winn-Dixie closed when the chain exited Asheville in the 1990s and Ingles opened one of their "Best Food" grocery outlets to keep the space from being occupied by another grocer just across from one of their earliest large superstores. The Eckerds was the last holdout of original tennants.
When I left the Asheville area in 1998, there had just been a controversy concerning Eckerd's coffee shop. The company wanted to close the restaurant, noting that they were operating less than 10 coffee shops at the time, but elderly folks who met there every morning protested the decision and the company relented, deciding that it would leave it intact. Looks like that protest was more than successful, as I was quite surprised to find that it is still there and actually survived the Eckerds-Rite Aid switch.

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Re: Chain Drugstores with Operating Lunch Counters

Post by krogerclerk »

Eckerd eliminated the lunch counters around here by the late 70's, replacing them with Eckerd Optical which lasted until the mid or late 80's. When Eckerd acquired Marietta, GA based Dunaway Drugs in the late 80's, they inherited several stores that still had lunch counters, including the 1979 build Dunaway in Bry-Man's Plaza South. Eckerd operated the lunch counter until almost 2000 when they cited closure due to it being one of the last lunch counters still operating in the chain and the company lacked the economy of scale to continue lunch counters. While there was considerable protest, as it was a popular gathering spot for seniors, it was closed. This particular Eckerd closed when JCPenney sold Eckerd to Jean Coutu as its hours of operation had been reduced in the years since the closing of the lunch counter and business had dropped in the following years.

Most of the Dunaway locations were close to existing Eckerd stores and from all appearances Eckerd bought them for the prescription business as most locations were shuttered over the intervening years. Most survived until a free standing Eckerd replaced both a former Dunaway unit and one of Eckerd's original stores, or closed when the lease expired. By 2000 few Dunaway Drugs were still operating as Eckerd.
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Re: Chain Drugstores with Operating Lunch Counters

Post by dooneyt63 »

I don't know if it's still adjacent to the existing CVS or not, but the Eckerd coffee shop at Wabash Shopping Center in Lakeland, FL, was still open in the 1990's as an independent operation. It had simply been walled off from the drugstore.
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Re: Chain Drugstores with Operating Lunch Counters

Post by Gary21228 »

Surprised to see that there are any large chains that still have lunch counters. When Rite Aid entered the Baltimore market in 1977 with the purchase of local chain Read Drug & Chemical ("Run right to Read's - Drugstores worthy of your confidence") the lunch counters were one of the first things to go.
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Re: Chain Drugstores with Operating Lunch Counters

Post by Bearhawke »

The People's Drug on Lee Hwy near Glebe Rd in Arlington had a lunch counter, but it was gone ca. 1975-76 if memory holds me correctly.
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