Rite Aid to Close After Decades on Amsterdam Avenue

By Margo Lemberger

Employees at the Rite Aid between 69th and 70th Streets on Amsterdam learned over the weekend the store will be permanently closing on November 16th, multiple employees told West Side Rag. They said they had no hint that this was coming.

The last few years have not been easy for the store. Rite Aid had to deal with scaffolding that obscured its entrance, and then the construction of 200 Amsterdam Avenue next door, which made traversing the area more complicated. The store had been in danger of closing before, but survived even after a “For Rent” sign went up in 2013. The store has been open for decades.

No further shipments will be coming in, and prescriptions will need to be transferred immediately, employees said. The store serves a hefty portion of the local older population, as well as students from nearby schools, who will now have to find other accommodations. Some locals have sent us anguished notes since learning of the closing: “No more cheap groceries in the neighborhood anymore,” read one.

Rite Aid’s Media Relations Office did not respond to requests for comment.

NEWS, OPEN/CLOSED | 89 comments | permalink
    1. Frank Grimes says:

      This was a decent store and always had good sales.I always thought It was matter of time before it was going to close. it is too close to that unscrupulous intersection where MCDonalds is. I imagine like the rest of the pharmacies, it was a victim of incessant shoplifting.

      • Leon says:

        I’m surprised that CVS, Duane Reade and Rite Aid aren’t lobbying harder to have stiffer penalties for shoplifting. It costs their businesses so much.

        Yet if one complains about there not being stiff enough penalties, many of our neighbors will either call you a Republican (I’m not), call you a racist (I’m not), say you are exaggerating, say it is good to stick it to large corporations, or change the subject to talk about offensive statues or how they think all cops are horrible.

        • sg says:

          Interesting that you listed Republican before racist in your comment. I loved living in NYC, but the closed mindedness of some liberals there was appalling. And yes, I am a conservative/Republican…but I have liberal/Democratic friends and family.

          • John says:

            Amazon will be your new drug store minus the sales.

          • chuck d says:

            Honestly, how do you not see the link between racism and republican/conservative policies? Not trying to hurt your feelings, honestly want to know how you don’t see it.

          • Truth and Reason says:

            I’ve lived in multiple countries and states and have never met anyone more close-minded or entitled than the New York liberal.

            • Josh says:

              Funny how the term liberal literally means open to new ideas and conservative literally means averse to change and holding traditional values.

      • Paul says:

        Rite Aid, like Duane Reeade, was purchased by Walgreens.
        The issue isn’t scaffolding, and the issue isn’t shoplifing.

        The issue is how far is this location from the nearest Duane Reade?

        And the answer is “there’s a really large one less than 2 blocks away.”

        • Frank Grimes says:

          Rite Aid is very much it’s own company, trading under the symbol RAD. The stores it sold to Walgreens were re-branded shortly after the sale.

          I disagree with your assessment that shoplifting is not a factor, though we will never know, as even the idea of a CEO mentioning that would likely lead to an uproar by the lefty socialist types.

          • Dee says:

            I think Walgreens did buy a number of Rite Aid stores, but not sure that’s an influence in this situation.

        • West Side Lifer says:

          That deal didn’t actually go through, although Walgreen’s purchased some Rite-Aid stores. They re-branded them to Walgreen’s stores.

      • B.B. says:

        Rite Aid on UES (Second and 80th) has a constant daily flow of shoplifting. Two, three, four or more often within same hour.

        Things got so bad store stopped being open 24/7 and now is closed between 11PM and 6AM. Did that help? Not a bit.

        There is a conga line of people waiting at 6AM who simply walk in, fill their bags or arms, then walk right back out. No one even makes an attempt to stop them. You speak to employees and they say it is often the same people day after day. They come on foot or bike.

        During new shortened hours shoplifting largely has continued unabated.

        Apparently neither Rite Aid corporate, NYPD, city government or anyone else in power cares. People will sit up and take notice when Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS and others start closing stores.

    2. Sims says:

      We can only hope someone comparable comes in.

    3. Debbie says:

      It was never a great store.

      • Lisa says:

        It was the best store. It had the cheapest prices.

        • Jen says:

          Yes, it had the best prices and good service. Nothing around is even comparable.

          And incessant shoplifting which I witness twice personally was a factor.

      • Dee says:

        I have to agree it wasn’t a great store. It had such a negative atmosphere, I guess, largely driven by the long lines and unfriendly staff. I could never get help with anything I needed.

    4. Thomas says:

      When shoplifting is no longer deemed a crime, we all pay the price. RIP “cheap groceries in the neighborhood”

      • Danielle Remp says:

        “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” (Attributed to Edmund Burke, 18th century.)

    5. Josh says:

      Cheap groceries? Though I’m sad to see a store closing and another vacancy, I don’t think the prices were all that great.

    6. Michael says:

      “The store serves a hefty portion of the local older population, as well as students from nearby schools, who will now have to find other accommodations.”

      Seriously? You can’t swing a dead cat in this neighborhood without hitting a CVS or Duane Reade, and there are still a few mom & pop pharmacies in the area who could really use more foot traffic. This particular Rite Aid was always less than welcoming, often dirty, and somehow never quite felt “safe.”

      • js says:

        Michael,
        Yes actually my family has been using this Rite-Aid for years.
        The staff have always been nice and helpful.
        We had no hesitation having our tween kids go there on their own.
        Tough a chain, felt like a “community” store.
        A real loss

      • Andrea says:

        PLEASE do NOT use the expression “swing a dead cat.” Ditto for “more than one way to skin a cat.” This is highly offensve to cat and animal lovers ~ or even just decent people. Just curious: do you own a dog, or even if you don’t, ould you use expressions lilke this about dogs?

    7. Ray says:

      Sorry to see it go

    8. John says:

      just such bad news. Just received my booster shot there. Sorry to hear they are going. Really feel for the staff.

    9. Terry says:

      Oh no– Just got my Covid booster shot there on Saturday. The pharmacists were all efficient and helpful. I’ve taken advantage of sales and specials at this Rite Aid for years = Much better than those at any CVS. And this store is nicer and more convenient than the next closest store at 97th and Columbus. So sorry to see them close.

    10. jill says:

      worst. store. ever.

    11. SadforUWS says:

      No surprise. For a long time before 2020 I saw brazen shoplifting with the security guard just looking helpless. I thought it would shut its doors much sooner.

    12. puzzled says:

      no more cheap groceries in the neighborhood? Isn’t Trader Joe’s about 2 blocks away?

      • Danielle Remp says:

        There is an old-fashioned distinction between “cheap” and “inexpensive” that I preserve.
        Trader Joe’s produce is wholesome and fresh, and sold at considerably lower prices; unfortunately, that attracts l o n g lines of New Yorkers, many coming by subway to the 72nd Street store.
        So some here may occasionally opt to buy “cheap” from drugstores.

    13. Francena James says:

      I am so sorry this store is closing. I have been shopping at this Rite Aide Store for the last 40 years. It will be a HARDSHIP for me and For Others. I hope and PRAY it Will NOT CLOSE. This STORE is VERY MUCH Needed.

    14. L. BRAVERMAN says:

      I used to work the overnites at ABC TV Network, walking down to the mid 60s from my aerie in the 80s, getting mentally ready to switch vapid commercials in the dank ABC basement for the 3:00 news, the 3:30 news, the 4:00 news ad nauseum.

      On freezing winter nites at 1:30am it was nice to see their cheerful lights on, duck inside, blow on my fingers buy some cough drops, whatever…

      They were always nice to me & occasionally had good sales on shampoo, batteries and other tchotchkes when I’d passed north on my return trip after the shift, the pale welcome sun full up…

      A shame to see them go, especially like this… reminds me a little of Lowes, a few blocks away; I bought a Haier fridge there (meh…); after it was delivered I realized I’d no receipt so went back the next day & everything & everybody had disappeared like thieves in the night, they even disappeared the signage.

      Later, on the phone, they promised to 1. email & also 2. snail mail me copies of the receipt… but of course nothing ever came, they were irrevocably gone.

      And that’s my memory of 2 different chains and how they were both broken.

      • Juan says:

        I thought there was a 100 word limit? Your moderators are not very consistent. Please explain publicly. This is a reasonable post but not something so profound that it merits an exception.

        • WSR says:

          Believe us, shorter comments are easier to moderate, as we read each one carefully. Upper West Siders have a lot to say. What is profound or not is a matter of opinion. But, yes, we have loosened the word limit of late, while still believing strongly in brevity.

          • I was trying to make a point about the chains of feeling and memory that make up a life and connect us to a particular neighborhood.

            It takes time (for me, here, over an hour) to build such a case, including the editing for, yes, brevity.

            • Cato says:

              The French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal is generally credited with writing “I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.”

              Others to whom similar sentiments have been attributed include Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw, Voltaire, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Winston Churchill, Pliny the Younger, Cato, Cicero, Bill Clinton, and Benjamin Franklin.

              See https://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/04/28/shorter-letter/

          • Juan says:

            Thanks. No offense to the poster above. I was just curious.

      • Danielle Remp says:

        Thanks, L.B. I enjoyed reading your account. I’m glad that you took the time to write it, and that WSR included it.

        As we encounter more and more darkness and void out in the New York City night, and deal with increased fears of daytime stray bullets and muggings, I guess that we will all opt for prescription mail order, and online-every-things.

        Later, we will be deemed ‘nostalgic’ for recalling those warm and well-lit brick-and-mortar structures, equipped with live humans to serve us, so that, at the end of their own shifts, they too could go home and provide.

    15. Karen Bruno says:

      Why would any store stay open with all the shoplifting that goes on?

    16. Ethan says:

      Going back to, say, the mid 1970s,the retail history of the blocks on Amsterdam Ave south of 70th and north of Lincoln Center would make a fascinating essay.

    17. laure manheimer says:

      there is a store that does not seem to get as much attention as it should: Harmon Beauty and health store, on 77th and broadway on the west side of broadway. it is under scaffolding and is hard to see but it is perfectly kept, it is well stocked, has all the brand products (instead of generic products) and the prices are competitive. at 2171 Broadway, New York, NY 10024. i am not connected to the store in any way except as a satisfied customer.

      • Harmon IS good; there’s few customers there either; why I don’t know, because the prices are fine.

        They’re owned by Bed Bath and Beyond and the workers are friendly there too.

      • Mark P says:

        Harmon is my go to despite being less close than DR or CVS. The fact that it is emptier is part of the appeal, along with the excellent stock, prices, and condition of the store. An absolute gem. Check out downstairs too for cleaning supplies!

      • Rob says:

        They’d probably do a lot better if they accepted the Beyond Plus/membership rewards program at this location. An employee told me it cost them a lot of sales.

        • Paul on W 67 says:

          I had no problem using my Bed Bath & Beyond coupon at Harmon, but it was probably back in August. Have they changed their policy?

          • Rob says:

            They take the coupons – (even expired ones) but do not accept the Bed Bath and Beyond rewards program – AKA “Beyond Plus”. It costs to join – but you get 20% off anything and free shipping. This is accepted at the BB&B near Lincoln Center – and the Harmon Face Values at 89th (90th?) but not at the one on Broadway (76-77) despite the sign outside “part of the Bed Bath and Beyond family) One time an employee let me use the plan (showing bar code on my phone) but just that once.

    18. Otis says:

      I’m sorry to hear this store is closing but it was always dirty and cramped in there.

    19. Bob says:

      They had nice hours but never enough cashiers so the waiting was always intolerable. I’m surprised it didn’t close sooner.

    20. Mark Moore says:

      Rite Aid is definitely at the bottom of the pharmacy food chain.

    21. John Gingrich says:

      This is too sad. These are good and kind folks and they will very much be missed.

    22. LIbirder says:

      So sorry that there is no way to keep this store open – so many people depend on it!

    23. js says:

      Although Rite Aid is a chain this store felt like a neighborhood shop – the staff are so nice and helpful.

      It will be a real loss, especially to elderly who depend on it.

      Duane Read on 72nd is hard to manage and block is quite crowded and CVS on West End is a long walk for some.

    24. Mark says:

      I hate this. They are one of the few places that stays open for 24hrs. I go here often to use the Amazon Locker and pick up my packages.

    25. Jamal says:

      Everyday for the last year and a half you can walk in and see some young kid(s) just grabbing everything they can hold in their hands and walk out of the store. I used to think I was a sucker for actually paying. Now we see the consequences. One of the few places you could have still gotten a decent price on milk and eggs.
      Shame on the younger generation who cry foul and rob for everyone else. Now we know why we can’t have good things.

      • Carlos says:

        I agree – the shoplifting has become ridiculous, as have other “petty” crimes.

        There seems to be a lot of disagreement here about why this happens. Many feel that the penalties are less than they were and are not stiff enough, so they are back on the street immediately and the police feel that it isn’t worth stopping them for this reason. Others say this is not the case.

        There must be someone who reads WSR who can give us the truth on this in an unbiased way. Have shoplifting laws changed? What are the penalties? Are there harsher penalties for repeat offenders? Thanks to anyone who could help – it would be worthy of a separate post.

        • Danielle Remp says:

          To find an answer, I think that, first of all, we have to distinguish between “shoplifting” and “theft”.

          Big, full-grown thieves are walking out of drugstores with bags of stolen goods of high value and demand, draped on their backs, that are as big as they are — as much as they can carry to sell to willing merchants — while we all look the other way in fear.

          A former retail store employee once told me that staff is told to ignore them. Life is more precious. Of course it is. So what’s the solution?

          • B.B. says:

            Rite Aid managers have told me for a fact that corporate policy forbids employees from stopping suspected theft/shoplifters. Even the rent-a-cop security guards are told same thing, they also cannot stop anyone.

            This is why you can stand by any door of a Rite Aid store and watch people walk out with bags or backpacks full of stuff. Others have that and or so much merchandise stashed in their clothing they cannot move easily.

            NYPD stations a patrol car with lights flashing in front of various CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, etc.. stores for nearly all hours they are open. That is some deterrence, but not 100%

        • CZ says:

          What’s the solution to shoplifting? How about raising children with discipline knowing their parents will kick their butts if they were caught? How about teaching children/young adults the difference between right and wrong? You can blame “the system” and the government all you want. That is not the issue. If you’re raised with to be honest and hardworking, you’ll be honest and hardworking.

          • Danielle Remp says:

            That’s one solution. But I think that the thefts fatal to our stores are conducted, instead, by career thieves who either work with resellers/fences, or who distribute their spoils directly to street vendors and retailers.

            Apparently, there are enough bargain-seekers who encourage these crimes to continue by buying the stolen items — which often still bear the robbed store’s price tags.

            • B.B. says:

              Large amounts of goods stolen from Rite Aid and similar stores go to bodegas, local corner delis or other small places. Other major avenue is online market places; places like eBay, CL, FB…

              First because often small stores/bodegas cannot afford minimum required purchases from distributors. For instance you just cannot buy say one or two sets of Hagen Daz ice cream. Ditto for many other things.

              Even when they can afford product, they cannot resell at price points to make profit. But if they can get merchandise that has “fallen off a truck….”.

              Go on eBay and you’ll see pages and pages of laundry products, health and beauty aids, household cleaning products, and in general anything you find at Rite Aid.

          • SadforUWS says:

            uh, no. three words. Repeal. Bail. Reform.

    26. Lisa says:

      I’m getting seriously depressed. All my favorite stores are closing or have closed. I don’t want to live in a neighborhood full of drug addicts and empty storefronts.

    27. Mike says:

      I’ve been stopping in there once a week for sale items I use regularly. Items in stock or raon checks. Friendly, helpful staff. Some staff been there fir years. Best prices on beers. There’s no other store like it in the ‘hood. I’ll miss it.

    28. Robert says:

      That place was a dump. Should have closed years ago. And the staff couldn’t care less.

      • Jose Lopez says:

        You have no respect for the frontline workers there. My mom works at the store. Hardest working there. Do not generalize the workers! Some of the workers now will need to travel even more to a new store!

        • Paul on W 67 says:

          I hope your mom lands on her feet. I’ve been through a few retail closures over the years and you are correct, nobody thinks of the front-line workers. Decisions are made in some fortified corporate office somewhere, but it’s the people at the store level who invariably suffer. I’ll miss their Thrifty Chocolate Malted Krunch ice cream.

    29. wombatnyc says:

      The best prices in town – Always the best sales on gum, ice cream , and much more .
      DR and Walgreens prices are ridiculously hight . Will miss this store . Hopefully the one in Grand Central will remain,

      • B.B. says:

        There are at least two Rite Aid stores on East side. One in Yorkville other in East Harlem. There is also a store in Tribeca area as well.

    30. Maria says:

      Typical UWSer – “Hooray! Let’s get rid of these greedy chain drugstores!”

      Also Typical USWer – “Wait, where can I buy toilet paper, or milk & bread in a pinch! The nearest supermarket is 15 blocks away! Our politicians should do something about this!”

    31. RAL says:

      Rite Aide has the best prices on kitchen and bath cleaning products – and their pharmacy is just fine and friendly – I use 97th and Col. but can’t imagine this one is much different. Yep it isn’t fancy, but I’m not getting ripped off like in Duane Reade and CVS. They also installed self checkout – never a wait now.

      • B.B. says:

        RA’s prices on house cleaning and other supplies aren’t always the cheapest.

        When things are on sale, yes prices are often good. More so if there is a manufactures coupon somewhere. But you have to do your homework..

        As with many other things (surprise, surprise) Amazon often beats DR, RA, CVS, and Walgreens. Target also has pretty good prices as well.

    32. George Rittenhouse says:

      The blatant robbery of all of these stores in the neighborhood is going to be the downfall of this area. The Rite Aid near time square was hit so hard from robberies that they lost over a million dollars in lost revenues. Politics aside, homelessness and widespread drug use is destroying all of our lives on the Upper West Side. There are people getting shot at and robbed, it should not be this way. Some think this store was not the greatest and in all honesty its not but it’s what we have near by for some offering some affordable items. I seriously thinking of getting out before it gets so worse that we need to have curfews in place. We are going pay the price for a once great neighborhood.

      • CjBerk says:

        George Rittenhouse..you are so right! We have thought that even before the Hotels took in the homeless drug addicts. Almost overnight, the neighborhood then became dirty dangerous and depressing. I write about it all the time. Nothing helps. I would love to move to the east side. Crossing on the M72 bus from east to west is like entering the third world. Now somehow we have young gangs with guns. Someone suggested we stage a march in front of Fairway so they have to clean up the sidewalk.

    33. Wags says:

      Pharmacy staff were always helpful and friendly. The staff at the Duane Reade at 72nd and Broadway are combative at the best of times, they clearly aren’t trained in customer service. The Rite Aide wasn’t as flashy but you got customer service at the pharmacy and there was always good prices. Will be a big loss to the neighborhood.

    34. vbhgy says:

      Always avoided that store,
      dirty, long lines etc.
      Haven’t walked in there
      in at least six years.

    35. Yvonne says:

      I am very sorry to see it go. I got my prescriptions and all my vaccines there. They always treated me like family. Their prices were very good.

    36. Mike says:

      I challenge anyone to tell me where in the neighborhood you can get a gallon of milk for $3.49 or TWO boxes of Special K/Life cereals for $5.00–with no limits! I never experienced rudeness on the part of cashiers and never waited on line longer than a couple of minutes. This store will be missed.

      • Brandon says:

        Those cereal prices were sale prices, so they’re not good points of comparison. Rite Aid’s normal prices for cereal are as expensive, if not more so, than other grocery stores in the area.

        As for milk, dairy prices in New York are highly regulated. A standard gallon will fall within pretty much the same price band wherever you buy it.

    37. Marcia Kaye says:

      and lack of product. This store has been a life saver, especially for late night needs.
      Staff is knowledgeable and helpful. Storefront suffers from its virtual invisibility. There hasn’t been sidewalk traffic since they started building that illegal monstrosity of
      a monstrously high, poorly placed building. And the white poles throughout the area haven’t helped. Owners should have flagged it more on the outset. I got one of shots here.

    38. Jess says:

      Good riddance. Their chips and chocolates were almost always stale, ice cream often defrosted and frozen again because of problems with the fridge. The prices before sale were marked up, making the sale seem attractive, but they real aren’t that good of a deal.

    39. Why aren’t the customers being notified especially those with life-saving medications that must now be transferred and refilled at another pharmacy many of your customers are older and this will become has quite a hardship for them says:

      Why aren’t the customers being notified especially those with life-saving medications that must now be transferred and refilled at another pharmacy many of your customers are older and this will become has quite a hardship for them

    40. Uwsgirl says:

      No one has mentioned that Rite Aid has the most affordable prescription prices of all the chains. That loss will hit hard especially the elderly in the area

    41. Rolf Schulte says:

      The store manager told me, when I reported and witnessed an instance of shop lifting, that this was the reason why the store is closing – sad ! And, when asked why a guard who always stood at the entrance was not there that day, the answer was : well, he’s only there to greet customers !!! That’s simple mis-management !

    42. Susan and Georgia says:

      I am going to miss the presence of this Rite Aid in our neighborhood. The staff was friendly and helpful and always eager to help. After seeing almost every week for nearly 20 years they became friends. This Rite Aid was very special and they will be missed.

    43. B.B. says:

      Rite Aid, Walgreens, Duane Reade, CVS and similar stores are being hit by waves of shoplifters from coast to coast.

      More so in areas of CA, NY, MA, Illinois, etcc…, run by progressive liberal woke democrats that basically have decriminalized anything but felonies. Prosecutors in Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles and elsewhere simply will not prosecute “low level” offenses. This includes shoplifting.

      That being said Walgreens and rest have more problems than theft.

      Just like other retail rise of internet had upended their business models. Nearly everything sold in Rite Aid, DR, CVS, Walgreens, etc… can be found online often cheaper. In short Amazon and other online retailers strike again.

      Time was when Duane Reade and rest stuck to being pharmacies selling health and beauty aids. Then they expanded to become quasi supermarkets, hardware stores, etc… Now that is coming back to bite them on the behind. Things worked before Amazon and rest of online were around, but not anymore.