Remember Eckerd? Sure you do, it was the second largest pharmacy chain in the United States at one point! And its blue and white color scheme with purple, red, and gold accents are peak “90s aesthetic”. Even if you’re not familiar with the store, you’e likely to agree they looked awesome! Eckerd stores looked nice, had locations nearly from coast to coast and were all unfortunately doomed. This was largely due to the 1996 merger of Eckerd with JCPenney’s Drug Store division. Their stores were headed by Thrift Drug, along with multiple other chains they had acquired throughout the East Coast. While some locations were converted most stores varied in size, products, departments, policies, and names. The merger was seen as a way to help Eckerd grow their store count, and provide a coherent brand for all of Penney’s drug stores. The merger was initially hailed as a success, with Eckerd brining in approximately 45% of JCPenney’s income at their peak. However, the task of merging all of these stores together proved to require more cash than Penney’s was willing to spend putting them all under the same brand but not the same infrastructure. The company also continued to run two separate support centers to run each side of the company.
A surprising decision was made to sell the company which was still in the midst of building new stores, unable to find a single buyer the stores were split up. CVS chose the locations across the South and West including those in Texas, with the Northern and East Coast stores being sold to Brooks Pharmacy, who would as a result fold, but we’ll save that for the end. The store we’re looking at today (7215 Bissonnet) opened in 1999, and I believe it replaced an older location which was in a strip center nearby. In 2004 CVS made their first push into the Houston market opening brand-new stores. Only a few months later the Eckerd deal would close instantly skyrocketing their store count within the city. This store was just a block away from a brand-new CVS (7102 Beechnut) located on a corner lot adjacent to HBU. The easiest decision was to just shut down the “old” Eckerd location and sell the property. Over 15 years later the property continues to sit vacant outside of one occasion you’ll see below.
In closing, this is a sad state for a store to sit in, but I’m glad I was able to get these photos. The history of Eckerd would likely have been a lot different if JCPenney had not sold them off so quickly. As mentioned before, the Brooks Eckerd merger failed within two years, and the stores were again sold off. This time Rite Aid bought the combined chain and began to rebrand everything under their name. Rite Aid would do a decent job of brining the stores up to par technology wise, but many old Thrift Drug locations and even some old Rite Aids that came full circle sat in old Eckerd’s decor. In 2015 Walgreens would attempt to merge with Rite Aid, however the FTC blocked this deal and instead allowed them to purchase stores in certain areas. While for the most part Walgreen’s took over older, less desirable locations. I covered what they did with some of these a while back on the blog what I didn’t know at the time was that Walgreens had also acquired some former Eckerds, and here is your reward for sitting through this verbose rambling. Walgreens best imitation of an Eckerds.
-See you Sunday folks!