WHY THE UPPER WEST SIDE MAY HAVE FEWER DRUG STORES SOON

drug stores uws
Here’s what happens when you type in “drug stores” on the Upper West Side on Google Maps. They spread like rashes!

There is a unique Upper West Side fear known as drug-store-a-phobia that is characterized by an overwhelming terror of a Duane Reade opening on your block, right next to a CVS, right down the block from Rite Aid.

But there’s reason to believe that starting in about a year, the neighborhood could find a cure for its malaise. Walgreens (or its corporate overlord Walgreens Boots Alliance) is buying Rite Aid, and if the proposed deal passes musters with regulators, it would likely be finalized in the second half of next year. And when companies merge, they tend to reduce “redundancies” — Walgreens is already targeting more than $1 billion in savings — “another clue that it will likely close stores.”

Goldstone said it is early to speculate on what will happen to Walgreen and Rite Aid stores that are on adjacent — or nearby — corners but one of them will likely close, opening prime real estate opportunities for other retailers, including discount stores, often referred to as dollar stores, gas stations and even restaurants.

That could affect the Rite Aid on 110th and Broadway that’s near the Duane Reade on 111th. (Walgreens owns Duane Reade.) Or the one on 70th and Amsterdam that’s just a hop and a skip from the Duane Reade at 72nd and Broadway. Or the Rite Aid and Duane Reade that are just down the block from each other at 97th and Columbus.

Who are we kidding, drug stores will proliferate forever, until we can’t even enter our buildings without walking through their too-bright fluorescent hallways to the paper towel section and ask ourselves again and again, “Wait, do I really need paper towels? Do I even need them?”

Aaaaaaaaaaaah!

NEWS | 64 comments | permalink
    1. MaryJo says:

      Or UWSiders could support local business and trade with Apthorp Pharmacy, where Harry and crew actually care about their customers and know them by name.

      • UWSsurfer says:

        They have beautiful window displays too!

      • Lin says:

        Chateau Drugs and Joseph’s are two other fantastic small drug stores where they care about the customers.

        • Filatura says:

          Add Park West Pharmacy, on Columbus near 82nd, to the list of indies that greet you by name and ingeniously manage to pack everything you need (including basic office supplies and high-end toiletries and baby products) into a small store. I find very little need to enter the nearby CVS (aisles and aisles of junk food, annoying self-checkout kiosks) and Duane Reade (disorganized and depressing even after a recent renovation).

          • BMAC says:

            +1 for Park West Pharmacy, who were my local purveyors of pretty much whatever I needed for health reasons for 8 years until I moved uptown where I have only Rite Aids and Duane Reades. 🙁

        • Jeff says:

          Second the love for Joseph. Staff is really helpful and knows us by name. We shoot the breeze about the Mets and the weather and whatnot. Can’t say the same for the big chains.

        • RK says:

          PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE patronize Joseph’s on 72nd st. Their pharmacists are fantastic and take real pride in their work. They compounded a horrendously tasting antibiotic for my daughter this week with various flavors and anti-bitterness agents and charged nothing extra. The selection in the rest of the store is really well curated as well.

      • Eric says:

        Apthorp is indeed a lovely place. That said I can tell you, as a regular of the Duane Reade on 106th St., that the pharmacists there always greet me by my name, are very helpful, and will even call me on the phone with questions or information.

        Just because a store is part of a chain does not mean that it’s employees don’t act like they are part of the neighborhood.

        • Claire says:

          The bank that used to be there was magnificent. That was a crushing loss when Duane Reade opened up on that corner. I agree the pharmacy is good, but the rest of the store along with what they lost when they closed the bank is still a tragedy.

        • Young Sally says:

          Agreed — at the DR at 88th/Bway, Frank runs the Rx counter the same as he did when he worked at his old pharmacy.

    2. wendy says:

      A friend just send me this re: Rite-Aid (she is a retired pharmacist) — I’d think twice about filling my Rxs there:

      “I just learned that the Rite-Aid Pharmacy chain is engaging in union-busting tactics and is attempting to force their pharmacy technicians and pharmacists out of their chosen union, 1199. As a retired pharmacist who worked in both union and non-union institutions I can tell you that having 1199 to negotiate our salaries and benefits was priceless.
      Management was constantly trying to cut our benefits and salaries.

      I’m asking you to contact Rite Aid at https://www.riteaid.com/customer-support/contact-us, or 1-800-RITE AID (1-800-748-3243) and tell them that as long as they engage in union busting you will boycott their stores and will spread the word to others to do the same.”

      • David S says:

        I’ve never understood why a professional (like a pharmacist) would need to be represented by a union. If you have a valuable skill and are good at what you do, why not negotiate a salary on your own behalf based on your own merits? Any salary a union negotiates will be based on the lowest common denominator. If you don’t bring enough value to the table to negotiate a fair salary based on your merits, perhaps finding another occupation might be the way to go.

        • Ph says:

          In what world do you think hiring managers at any of the major chains are given latitude to negotiate individual salaries, outside of a very tight range determined at the corporate level? Additionally, the variation between salaries offered at the various chains is nearly identical. If you take a hardline negotiating at one, they know you aren’t going to get a better offer at the others. Given that like 98% of the pharmacies within a 100 mile radius is one of the 3-4 major chains, that is a huge blow to your negotiating power.
          Another blow is that if you do decide to walk away from the salary CVS/Duane Reade/RiteAid is offering you, one of two things will happen: 1) The hiring manager will find someone else of lesser ability to take the same offer, as the hiring manager’s incentive is probably more aligned with filling openings as quickly as possible than finding the best candidate OR 2) enough other pharmacists will eventually turn them down that they are forced to offer a higher salary to fill the position. Either way YOU are definitely not going to be getting a better salary.
          You can either agree to take what you’re offered, or call their bluff, walk away, and hope that the free market forces their hand. But it could take months, if not years, of hiring difficulties at locations across the country before they cave and adjust their salary offerings. This period would be much more painful for you then it is for the company. Hiring difficulties would be spread out amongst thousands of locations, allowing the company to minimize the pain by stretching existing resources to cover holes as they arise. Moreover, they wouldn’t get hit all at once. Even if the level of vacancies was higher than they would like over time, the number of openings would ebb and flow. Meanwhile, you aren’t getting paid and you don’t have any other advanced skill sets, training, or experience so you are probably looking at a menial, minimum wage job until the large pharmacy corporations are eventually brought to their knees.
          Instead of tens of thousands of individual negotiations over a decade between a single powerless individual and the company, unions are a way to have one large negotiation. With 10,000 individuals all negotiating together, it introduces the possibility that the company will get hit all at once and actually feel some pain. Sometimes this is the only way to even the scales.

        • ScooterStan says:

          Re: “If you have a valuable skill and are good at what you do, why not negotiate a salary on your own behalf based on your own merits?”

          You either are:
          a) a Conservative Republican;
          b) a wild-eyed dreamer; or
          c) TOTALLY CLUELESS ABOUT THE HISTORY OF UNIONS IN THIS COUNTRY!

          Unions were formed because NO ONE PERSON ALONE CAN STAND UP TO MANAGEMENT! Going to your immediate supervisor and saying “Gee, dear boss, I weally, weally need a waise” will either get you terminated immediately or make you the laughing-stock of his lunchtime crowd…and then get you terminated!

          Unions engage in COLLECTIVE BARGAINING (bargaining for ALL employees) with the implied (and hopefully never used) threat of COLLECTIVE ACTION to obtain the carefully-thought-out goals.

          Unions BUILT the MIDDLE CLASS; and most analysts agree that the current wage-stagnation is a direct result of the decline of unionism.

      • neighbor says:

        Pharmacists have no business being in a union. And in general, the unions have degenerated into entities that make their heads very rich while blackmailing the economy.

    3. Ground Control says:

      I also dislike the big box drugstores and prefer private pharmacies for sure-but the drugstores are there simply because they can afford the extraordinary rents being charged by landlords all over this city. Which leads one to wonder what will be in these spaces when the drugstores leave? More and more empty storefronts which already proliferate all over the UWS? There must be limits to how long a store can remain empty with large penalties imposed after a certain affixed period. There also should be regulation on rents of commercial space, and if there were, we’d see smaller businesses come back and along with it the quality of our neighborhoods! Support local businesses!

      • Sean says:

        A’int gonna happen. You go anywhere in this country and the first world for that matter and you see the same stores. Small businesses like you remember from your youth are gone. Those businesses stayed in business for decades and their customers were there for decades. Everything is temporary. Keep moving.

        • RK says:

          I disagree. In NYC, mom-and-pop operations can still survive if they offer service, selection, and reasonable value. Two examples that come to mind are Josephs Pharmacy and Stationery&Toy World, both on 72st. Although their prices aren’t rock bottom, they’re fair, and the service and curated selection has earned them loyal followings.

          If the drugstores leave and the large spaces stay empty, either different big-box stores may move in (which may be a good thing depending on which ones!!) or the landlords will be forced to lower the rent or subdivide or something.

    4. Sherman says:

      The Rite Aid on 70th & Amsterdam should have been closed years ago. It’s dirty and dingy and cramped in there.

    5. tyler says:

      Rite Aid has been looking to sell for a while, but it’s disappointing because their prices are substantially lower than Walgreens and Duane Reade (and CVS) (and yes, I’m aware the stores are also more ghetto – but sometimes I don’t want to pay a dollar or two extra for household items).

      • WombatNYC says:

        Love Rite-Aide for the same reasons. prices are substantially cheaper then DR / Walgreens or CVS.. The stores were not pretty but that’s what I liked about it. It was simple, old school and best candy selection too

    6. cmw says:

      When Duane Reade first opened at 94th and Columbus they offered to buy-out Ivan Pharmacy and when Ivan would not sell they threatened to close his doors. Ivan know his customers and knows their prescriptions and has continued to fight to stay open. Ivan started in this neighborhood working for a prior drugstore and now owns where he first apprenticed. We must support the mom and pop stores that struggle to survive the corporate owned big box stores.

      • richard says:

        How exactly would Duane Reade “close his doors”?

        The hyperbole on this thread and this website in general is just incredible. The conspiracy theories and just plain dumb statements is stunning.

        Just an FYI, many independent pharmacists sell their “book” to the big chains and get a VERY nice payment and usually the ability to continue to work part time. I understand why someone would want to own and manage their own business, but this dynamic has been under way for decades.

        • cmw says:

          Duane Reade offered to buy him out and when he refused to sell, they used this threat. No hyper or misleading story. Sorry that you feel that my statement in false. This is why I seldom add anything these days because of the negative reactions, comments and attempts to put others down.

        • cs says:

          Richard –
          Worth noting that Duane Reade was a smallish local chain until the early 1990s when it was sold to a private equity firm and was sold again and again at various points.
          There was expansion. And along the way, one of the CEOs was convicted of securities fraud.

          Anyway, Walgreens bought Duane Reade – around 2010?

      • Elizabeth says:

        I am also a loyal customer of Ivan’s and have been so for many years. When Duane Reade took over the space on Columbus and 89 and closed both my small drugstore and the local grocery, I moved elsewhere. I have not been there since except when Ivan didn’t carry what I needed, just once. Ivan is knowledgeable and honest and courteous as is his entire staff.

    7. Ron Kapon says:

      I don’t see 79th Pharmacy listed (south side of 79th St next to Goodwill). I moved all my prescriptions there because of Keith, one of the owner/pharmacist. The staff is very helpful & they matched prices that I was paying in Canada.
      I also like CVS on 77th & Broadway. Buy my vitamins (buy one get one free) plus my soda (coke or pepsi on sale at under $1). Ditto most of my supplies, other than prescriptions. Very friendly staff.

      • anon says:

        LOVE the CVS on 77th/Broadway. Not only are the greeters genuinely friendly to me/others I see walk in but the store is easy to navigate, well-lit, open 24/7 and has all the awesome check-yourself-out kiosks. Sorry to all the bitter old people above but the ability to run in at 11pm when I get out of work and grab a household item or milk and speedily check myself out while have a pleasant conversation with the greeter is great for those of us who work long, hard hours. CVS also has an app and I can see before I walk in what’s on sale and plan my shopping accordingly. Duane Reade would be fine but it’s employees are often dreadfully incompetent or even rude and you have to wait in line to check-out. I’ll support the businesses that allow me to keep my hard-earned money in my pocket as much as possible. I already give 40%+ away to a wasteful government – no desire to overpay for simple things like soap.

        • RF says:

          Thank you! I’m baffled by the person above who described the self checkout as “annoying,” when, in fact, it’s the best thing about CVS! I too work odd hours, often coming home very late at night or leaving for work before the sun comes up. It’s far faster and easier to pop in, pick up what I need, and use the self checkout, almost always without waiting in a line. And, let’s face it, sometimes there are drugstore items that are far less embarrassing to buy if you can do so without making eye contact with a cashier.

    8. Linda says:

      The helpful and friendly UWS independent pharmacy we use and highly recommend: 79th Street Pharmacy at 217 W. 79th between Broadway and Amsterdam.

    9. margaret says:

      I have to put a plug in for 79th Street Pharmacy – Keith, Larry, Melanie and Rose are welcoming, kind, caring and know their business! Even though the space seems small compared to the big chain stores, they have everything you can think of, AND at lower prices than the chains. We MUST support the independent pharmacies.

    10. Sprinkles says:

      There’s nothing wrong with big chain pharmacies. They’re the closest thing to a general/variety store that still exists. We simply don’t need quite so many of them.

      Quite frankly, a 24 hour CVS is a godsend. Anything essential you need, anytime – and self-checkout is the best. Pay quickly, get out, get on with life.

    11. Erica says:

      As in so many things, there are different contexts in which different stores are preferable. My mom has very complicated pharmaceutical needs and the three independent pharmacies we tried couldn’t manage. The pharmacist at CVS on Broadway and 93rd has taken great care of her, including monitoring for conflicting prescriptions and possibly saving her life at one point. This is partly because he seems to be a good guy, and partly because of the systems he has to utilize. He and his staff have also been very good to her as she has become increasingly frail from a cognitive perspective and correspondingly random and cranky. He never loses patience, and seems to always remember that her crankiness is a reflection of her fear and distress.

    12. Chris says:

      Sure the Rite Aid on 70th and Amsterdam is not as nice as the Duane’s in the neighborhood, but it is SO much cheaper with much better weekly deals. Their deals are great and when Duane Reade has coke or no coffee on sale, Rite Aid does and vice versa. Gives us a great alternative to only using overpriced Duane Reade. And the Duane Reade at 72nd and Broadway is way more expensive than the one located a few blocks away at 75th and Columbus. I have no interest to pay more for my goods because DR opens a store that is too large like at 72nd St. Now they can just raise the prices at every store since Rite Aid will be out of the picture. $2 M and M’s right around the corner.

    13. Irene says:

      The problem for independents isn’t the rent it’s the insurance deals with drugs stores. CVS Caremark controls half the market and makes deals with the insurance companies. I love Apthorp and got all my scripts there until Aetna told me they would only cover them if I went to CVS

      • RF says:

        Yep. My plan requires that prescriptions be filled by CVS Caremark if I want them covered by insurance. I’m all for independent businesses, but I’m not in a position to pay for prescriptions out-of-pocket just so I can give them my support.

    14. 24gotham says:

      “… including discount stores, often referred to as dollar stores, gas stations [Really?] and even restaurants.” [Oh My! Even Restaurants? The tragedy of it all!]

      Yes, there will likely be closures of the less profitable locations, but I seriously doubt we need to be concerned about dollar stores and gas stations taking over the UWS. Not sure what will fill the spaces, but they are too big for restaurants to be sure.

    15. 2 Handicap says:

      While the idea of drug store closures sounds great it’ll just give some of the cranky Upper West Siders on this message board a reason to bitch and moan that they have to walk two blocks to pick up their drugs instead of just one.

    16. Naomi Fein says:

      As a recently departed West Villager, now living on the UWS, may I ask: where are the supermarkets? I do realize Food Emporium is shutting down and I intend to encourage D’Ag to establish themselves somewhere between 10th and 54th and B’way and 110th, but until they do, where do UWSers shop? (And please, do not say “Fairway.” For all its, um, exciting qualities, it is not a standard supermarket.)

      • neighbor says:

        Okay, here we go:
        from, say, 110th to 72nd, on Broadway, West Side Market (3 locations), Garden of Eden and (yuk ugh bleh) Gristedes
        Amsterdam: Key Food, unfortunately
        Columbus: Whole Foods, D’Ag

        • jezbel says:

          I don’t shop there but there is also a Trader Joe’s at about 71 St & B’way, I think there’s a Pioneer on Columbus & 70th (?) and for online shopping and delivery there’s always Fresh Direct.

      • Young Sally says:

        There’s a D’ag (or was if something changed recently) on Columbus and `92

      • Mary says:

        I live on 110th and Bway and there is a D’Ag on this corner. It is almost always nearly empty. I have no idea how they stay in business.

      • Cato says:

        There are voices here that will tell you that you are now supposed to buy your groceries on-line. (I’m not one of those voices; I prefer stores, but am predicting the response for which you should prepare.)

        Frankly, I’m surprised he hasn’t told everyone here that they should be buying their medicines on-line as well. “Stores? Who needs them?”

        Ah, well. But then again, I still use my cell phone to make phone calls. *And* then I can put it down. We’re a lost breed up here, I’m afraid.

        Good luck on the supermarket hunt. They’re there, but you do have to find them. (At least until they’re closed to make way for another vacant storefront, anyway….)

        • Sean says:

          Apthorp Pharmacy actively promotes their smartphone app. Many insurers actively promote mail delivery for prescriptions. The theory is that you will never run out. This is especially helpful for seniors in inclement weather.

      • Tibbeth says:

        No. 16, Naomi:
        Your observation re: lack of super markets on the UWS is spot on. We only have food stores on the UWS and the very few “somewhat” super markets are most likely struggling because of the tremendous competition from the food stores. I say “somewhat” super markets because I have been to real super markets in other locales; most everywhere else in the country folks would hardly think are super markets are “super” at all. However, it seems to me that this is happening many places in NYC, especially in Manhattan and Brooklyn. (Maybe not in Queens and Staten Island and the Bronx, but I don’t know.) Like gas stations, super markets are becoming extinct in our neighborhood.

    17. Ken says:

      Won’t someone please turn a few of the drug stores into laundromats?

    18. DJ says:

      I love the pharmacists at the DR on 75th & Columbus. They’re always willing make a call to my insurance company if needed or answer any questions I have with patience and good humor.

    19. Michelle says:

      No thanks. Any personal products I need I buy online. Going to a drugstore is so unpleasant. Luckily I don’t need any meds.

    20. Bob says:

      i like the Rite Aid on 70th and Amsterdam over the Duane Read up the street.

    21. Judy McGrath says:

      The best drug store on the West Side is Ivan’s. The store has been on the Upper West Side for ages. He knows his customers, answers all their questions and watches over them. I have been a customer for decades – wouldn’t think of going anywhere else.
      Judy

    22. Pjrod says:

      Hey UWSers- enjoy all of those big empty storefronts when all of these pharmacies close.

    23. Sean says:

      You have to ask yourself why we have so many to begin with. Could it be because we are home to so many seniors?

      • LS says:

        There seem to be tons of 20 and 30-somethings shopping in CVS and Duane Reade/Walgreen stores. That seems like the predominant demographic.
        Is that what you mean by “senior”?

    24. Tibbeth says:

      Want to put in a plug for New Amsterdam Drugs at 94th and Amsterdam (moved about 2 years ago from 96th and Amsterdam). An indie that services customers well, even calls to let you know when a prescription needs refilling, will contact your doctor and better prices than the CVS up the street at 96th and Amsterdam. At the CVS I personally witnessed an unbelievable abuse of a patron one evening because the pharmacy had charged him the wrong amount, he paid, the personnel present could not give him a refund (did not have authority to do so and refund must wait until the next day). CVS personnel (night manager) was insisting that he leave his filled prescription there at CVS until he could get his refund. He just wanted to take his medicine home and come back the next day but they were insistent. Go figure! Two blocks down the street are the reasonable professionals at New Amsterdam Drugs. Give them a try!

    25. lauren says:

      Want to put in a plug for Thomas Drugs on Columbus between 67 and 68 – another solid independent where the pharmacist knows clients’ name and where refills are done quickly and easily.

    26. Liz says:

      Joseph’s Pharmacy is great. When I called to renew a prescription the pharmacist told me it was to soon. She told me the renewal date and informed me that she would put in an alert so that I would be notified when the date came and the prescription is ready.

      Also, once when I could not reach my doctor to get a prescription renewed the pharmacist followed up several times with my doctor until she issued the renewal.

      Definitely support these folks. We really need a place where you can still find the personal touch.

    27. Ben says:

      Joseph’s on 72nd St. is great. Always accommodating and helpful. All the employees there are customer friendly. I also found that the copay for a med was more expensive at CVS then Joseph. I was told that was because corporate management negotiates with the insurance companies.

    28. Bill says:

      I am wondering why Price Wise at 84th & Broadway has not been mentioned. I find them to have the best prices of all the others !!!!