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A leading provider of pharmaceutical, health and wellness services, Walgreens is the largest drug chain store in the United States. This all-American company runs 8,300 stores in all 50 states, and also operates in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam.

It all began in Chicago when Charles R. Walgreen purchased the drug store he worked at as a pharmacist, in 1901. His expertise led him to manufacturing his own pharmaceutical products, and expanding the business beyond just a drug store, offering excellent Customer Service, high quality standards and most of all, affordability.

By 1910, Walgreen now owned two drug stores and he was looking for new methods to further expand his customer base. The drugstores already had soda fountains installed and offered a variety of flavored sodas and ice-creams in the summer. Walgreen added a new twist to the soda fountain – he introduced sandwiches, soups and deserts and was able to keep the Walgreen’s soda fountain running in Winter, as well, by selling reasonably priced, nutritious meals cooked by his wife, Myrtle Walgreen.

The Walgreens Corporation soon grew to 20 stores by 1920 and was well-recognized all over Chicago. Throughout this time, Walgreens found ever-new ways to increase their revenue by satisfying customers, and was growing rapidly. In 1922, Walgreens added the phenomenal malted milkshake to the drug stores’ soda fountains, which proved to be an instant success. By 1929, the company ran 525 stores spreading to New York City, Florida, and other locations. Surprisingly, the stock market crash in October 1929, followed by the Great Depression, did not affect the company much and by 1934, Walgreens drug stores spread to 30 states and 601 stores.

It is said that the company’s success grew in 1930’s partly due to the prohibition era when alcohol was banned. However, since alcohol was said to have medicinal benefits, the US government allowed those with a prescription or a written consent from their medical practitioner to purchase alcohol. Walgreens secured a license to prescribe alcohol for various ailments and started selling it, according to Daniel Okrent’s book – The last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.

By the 1950s Walgreen started off self-service stores instead of clerk-service in the Midwest, and Walgreens expanded into one of the largest drug retail chains in the US. By the 60s Walgreens started operating in Puerto Rico and soon filled its 100 millionth prescription, a record for any drug chain store. By 1968, Walgreens was the first drug retail chain to start filling prescriptions in child-proof containers, much before the US Law required pharmacies to do so.

Walgreens.com was launched in 1999, an online pharmacy that offers customers various pharmaceutical and healthcare services. Walgreens now runs several online stores such as Drugstore.com, Beauty.com, and Visiondirect.com. Walgreens also operates more than 307 Healthcare Clinics at select stores and provides services like vaccination, physicals, health screening and testing; treatment for illnesses, aches and pains, minor injuries, skin conditions; monitoring ongoing health conditions, providing medications and treatments.

As of 2012, Walgreens launched a new online tool “Find Your Pharmacist” that enables customers to match their healthcare needs with the expertise and specialties of Walgreens pharmacists. Walgreens is also planning to go global since it bought a 45 percent stake in the pharmaceutical, health and beauty company Alliance Boots.

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