Did you know over the past year, Walgreens has been using Houston as a test market for a new store type? The announcements for the new stores were quiet, but the concept has made a huge impact. Growing up in and around Houston, most folks were very familiar with their neighborhood drug stores. In some neighborhoods it’s one of the closest options to a grocery store, and sometimes the only option. Even out in the suburbs where my family lived Walgreens was the closest thing we had to a store within walking distance. It proved to be a great asset for picking up snacks, and basic everyday items. However, as soon as I had access to a car, I much preferred to drive into town and stretch my teenage dollar further at places like Wal-Mart. Any other time, though, I was likely headed to Walgreens to pick up whatever I needed. After Eckerds left town Walgreen’s store count was eventually deemed excessive for a 2 chain market, and many locations were closed to be leased to other tenants. At least three of these stores were along Highway 6, and deserve their own post.
Houston is spoiled for choice when it comes to pharmacies, we have not only multiple grocery chains with full service and often drive-thru pharmacies, but a number of independent pharmacies including some inside independent grocery stores. As for chain drug stores though we’re limited, really there’s only Walgreens and CVS which as of lately has been looking more and more like a healthcare company than a drug store chain. Whether it be CVS’s decision to completely drop tobacco products, or the addition of the subsidiary MinuteClinic locations to their stores, they continue to make moves towards a “healthy” future with their locations. In a desire to compensate, Walgreens tried developing their own in-store clinics in the 2010s around the same time Minute Clinic popped up. Comparatively, though Walgreen’s seemed to always have trouble with their clinics first selling off operating rights city by city to local health services. The remaining clinics were much smaller and more limited compared to their CVS counterparts. On November 20, 2019, the first combo Walgreens/Village Medical locations opened. This location was the first of a brand-new prototype, which aimed to combine a primary-care doctor’s office into a Walgreens. With about 160 company-run locations left Walgreens closed all remaining store operated clinics two days later. With Walgreens making a pledge to open up to 500 Village Medical locations within their stores this to really proving to be a match made in Houston!
Pasadena “Gen-1” Location
And that’s where this post ended… originally. I was just going to drop a photo album of one of the locations I visited with some commentary on the photos and that was that. Until, serial commenter Anonymous in Houston let me in on a tip about Village Medical. Oddly nothing in the post mentioned Walgreens or Village Medical, am I being stalked… or do I just post everything I do online? Anyways, our nameless commenter dropped some new info that there were in fact two prototypes being tested in Houston. The first type, which I had visited was in Pasadena featured a larger store space and less room for Village Medical. The newer stores were the opposite way around slashing floor space and increasing leased area. I took it upon myself to find one of these “Gen-2” locations to make some comparisons. One of the first things I noticed was that each store reduced different departments. Checkout space at both locations was about the same, including services offered which did not seem to include things like passport photos, although I didn’t ask. The scope of product selection between stores was wildly different, except for pharmacy which was untouched in both. According to Anonymous in Houston the Gen-2 stores (larger doctors office) have won out, and with further ado lets dive into what the store looks like.