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Walgreens Unveils Grand, Upscale Store Downtown

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A first-of-its-kind Walgreens store on State Street will open on Jan. 10, 2012. The two-story store will have a sushi chef, smoothie bar, manicures and other high-end services and groceries, in addition to traditional drug store items and services. (Credit: CBS)

A first-of-its-kind Walgreens store on State Street will open on Jan. 10, 2012. The two-story store will have a sushi chef, smoothie bar, manicures and other high-end services and groceries, in addition to traditional drug store items and services. (Credit: CBS)

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Updated 01/09/12 – 5:05 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — A Walgreens unlike any you have ever seen will open Tuesday in the Loop.

As CBS 2’s Mai Martinez reports, the new Walgreens at the corner of State and Randolph is being touted as the only one of its kind in the country. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn were among those on hand for a formal ribbon cutting Monday afternoon.

The new store occupies two floors and 27,000 square feet at the former Loehmann’s department store, at 151 N. State St.

For decades, State Street has been a shopping staple in Chicago.

In recent years, State Street has seen some big retailers close their doors, including Carson Pirie Scott and Borders. But it seems State Street, that “great street” as Frank Sinatra called it in his song “Chicago,” is seeing a bit of a rebirth.

It has the usual drug store staples like cold medicine and cosmetics, but it’s definitely not your parents’ drug store.

At the pharmacy, there will be self-serve kiosks allowing customers to get their prescriptions quickly, as well as private consultation rooms for flu shots and other medical services.

“We want to make it more like a shopping experience; so you come in, buy what you need, but also spend time around,” said manager Joe Magnacca.

That time can be spent shopping for higher-end cosmetics and creams, sitting down to get a manicure, or perhaps even admiring the expanded range of wine, beer and liquor – including an almost $2,000 bottle of cognac.

Shoppers will also find a larger offering of healthy food choices.

“Everything from Greek style yogurts, to breakfast alternatives, lots of fresh fruit … a fresh sushi chef on-site. So it’s pretty exciting from a freshness point of view,” Magnacca said.

Loop resident James Dauphin said, “I was blown away by it. I mean, a sushi bar from what it looks like, and liquor department and frozen yogurt. … People aren’t going to want to leave Walgreens now.”

The Chicago Loop Alliance was also happy to see State Street’s newest tenant opening its doors.

“It’s going to draw foot traffic to State Street. It’s going to provide amenities for the many people who live downtown, and it’s going to energize the street,” Loop Alliance Executive Director Ty Tabing said.

Tabing said he hopes that energy will spill over into other available spaces on State Street, like the Block 37 mall and the former Borders location.

The prime space left by Carson Pirie Scott at State and Madison has already been snatched up by Target, with a new store set to open in July. Many Loop shoppers can’t wait.

“I don’t have anywhere to buy my work clothes anymore. I can’t afford some of these other stores downtown,” Norma Miles said.

Tabing said the opening of the Walgreens store “speaks to the health of State Street.”

“They see the value of being on State Street and they have invested substantially,” he said.

Walgreens didn’t want to lose all the old school charm of the neighborhood drugstore, so along with healthy made-to-order smoothies, they will be selling malted milk shakes at the juice bar. It’s kind of a throwback to the soda fountains that Walgreens was once so well known for.

Walgreens is actually returning to a plot of land it occupied for several decades. Until 2005, the drugstore occupied a two-story building on the site, but that structure was torn down for the present high-rise building, called the Joffrey Tower, which houses the Joffrey Ballet and condos.

Loehmann’s anchored the lower two stories of the building until it closed in January 2011.

The old Walgreens that once stood on site in turn replaced the landmark Masonic Temple, which had once been the city’s tallest building but was demolished in 1939.

Meanwhile, Deerfield-based Walgreens is not saying how many stores similar to the new State Street store it is considering, but said it’s scouting former Borders bookstore locations across the country.

Plans already have been released for a two-story Walgreens at the old Borders at 2817 N. Clark St., in the East Lakeview neighborhood. Renderings from the architectural firm Hirsch Associates LLC showed plans for two-story “Wellness Experience” store at the site with more space and features than a typical Walgreens store.

Walgreens spokesman Rob Elfinger said in November that the company did not have a lease on the Clark Street property.

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