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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, June 15, 2007

Walgreens now plans 4 stores, all on Oahu

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By Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer

Walgreen Co., the nation's biggest drugstore chain known for its drive-through pharmacy windows, plans to open four stores in Hawai'i by early next year and partially fill them with local products.

Walgreens previously acknowledged plans to open two stores on O'ahu at the former Tower Records site on Ke'eaumoku Street near Ala Moana Center, and at the former Star Market in Kane'ohe.

The Deerfield, Ill.-based company has added two more stores to that list: at Kam Bowl, which closes today at Kamehameha Shopping Center in Kalihi, and at an O'ahu site the company has yet to finalize.

Walgreens expects to open its first store on Ke'eaumoku Street in November. That store will be 13,000 square feet, but will not have drive-through pharmacy service.

The retailer projects opening the other three stores early next year.

Walgreens said its Kane'ohe and Kalihi stores will represent the company's prototypical store at about 14,500 square feet with drive-through pharmacy windows.

More stores are expected to follow for the company, which will present a stout challenge to Hawai'i's long-established Longs Drugs Stores Corp.

Longs, a California-based retailer with about 500 stores in six states, has done business in Hawai'i since 1954 and has built a loyal following of generations of kama'aina, many of whom regard the company with 35 stores here as a local institution. Shoppers search the newspaper on Sundays for the retailer's familiar yellow pullout ad and are familiar with store layouts and offerings.

Walgreens, with about 5,700 stores on the Mainland and Puerto Rico, brings enormous pricing power and the drive-through pharmacy service.

As with other national retailers that have expanded to Hawai'i, such as Wal-Mart and Kmart, Walgreens will devote shelf space to locally produced merchandise. Shoppers at Longs can find Hawai'i snack treats such as crack seed and Portuguese sausage while picking up a pair of rubber slippers or nylon netting to make candy lei.

Michael Polzin, a Walgreens spokesman, said the company hasn't decided how much space its Hawai'i stores may dedicate to local favorites.

"We haven't done anything like this going into a market before," he said.

To figure out what to carry, Walgreens will host a meeting with local vendors interested in selling their merchandise in the stores on June 27. The event starts at noon at the Sheraton Waikiki Ballroom. Interested businesses can arrange to attend by e-mailing walgreenshi@gmail.com.

"This event will provide an opportunity for us to learn how we can support local vendors seeking another retail channel for their products," said William Hose, Walgreens vice president of store operations, in a statement.

"For more than 100 years, Walgreens has been known for our wide range of merchandise at attractive prices, and we want to expand our product offerings by including merchandise supplied by Hawai'i businesses."

Reach Andrew Gomes at agomes@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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