As Walgreens officials seek community input about adding liquor sales to its store on upper Market Street in San Francisco, the company is planning to completely revamp its store at 18th and Castro Streets in the heart of the city’s gay business district.
The news comes as its chief rival, CVS, readies to open its first Castro location in the Market Noe Center near the corner of Market and Noe Streets. CVS is currently remodeling the facade and interior of a large portion of the concrete shopping complex ahead of its opening later this year.
The Walgreens store at 498 Castro Street is actually two different storefronts combined as one with floor to ceiling shelving, a cramped pharmacy space, and a second section up a small staircase where greeting cards, health products and beauty supplies are sold.
It is one of the chain’s busiest stores, especially its pharmacy. In 2010 the company won approval to expand its specialty pharmacy around the corner on 18th Street after agreeing to lease a portion of its new space to the GLBT Historical Society, which opened its LGBT history museum in it, for five years.
Now it has turned its attention toward revamping its original store space in the Castro, with work likely to begin in early 2015.
“We are going to completely renovate that store,” said Dave DeVincenzi, who oversees Walgreens’ local stores and announced the remodel plans during this morning’s (Thursday, March 6) Castro Merchants meeting. “The store windows will be opened up. We will not have the decals anymore.”
The store and its pharmacy will remain open during the construction. The window along Castro Street set aside for community groups to advertise their events will remain.
Inside the shelving will be lowered to open up the space and more fresh foods, fresh produce and yogurts will be for sale, part of a revamp Walgreens has been rolling out in its stores around San Francisco since 2011.
The pharmacy area will also be remodeled so that there is a desk in front where the pharmacist will be stationed in order to more easily interact with patients. A new, private immunization and consultation room will be added.
“I would love to be able to say this will happen this fall in time with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation opening up their new health center next to us and the planned street project improvements. But most likely it will occur after the first of the year,” said DeVincenzi.
Liquor sales at Market Street Walgreens
In the meantime, Walgreens is pursuing selling liquor at its store at 2145 Market Street. It is a reversal in policy for the Deerfield, Illinois-based company, which has long said it would not sell alcohol in its stores.
In fact, when it sought community support to expand the Castro Street store, one of the conditions it agreed to was to never sell liquor in that location.
The company in recent weeks had talked to Castro community leaders about adding alcohol to that location. But based on the negative feedback it received has dropped plans to seek a liquor license for that store at this time.
It is in the beginning stages of testing community response to adding alcohol to the shelves of its upper Market Street store near Church Street.
“We are just at the start of this and are taking community outreach very seriously,” said Jennifer Kurrie, Walgreens’ regional director for government relations who is based in San Francisco.
Walgreens executives have already met with police officials and have agreed to several provisions if it does sell alcohol at the store, such as not selling individual bottles of beer or wine coolers and not having wine bottles smaller than 750 ml.
Kurrie said Walgreens’ interest in selling liquor is due to feedback from customers, who would like to be able to buy a card and a bottle of wine for a birthday party in one location.
“They are asking for these things as a one-stop-shop,” she said.