Even as Walgreens moves closer to opening its first Medford store, much of its staff is in training in Grants Pass.

Even as Walgreens moves closer to opening its first Medford store, much of its staff is in training in Grants Pass.

The store at the corner of Riverside Avenue and Barnett Road is scheduled to open in mid- to late-September and will be Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreen Co.'s 47th in Oregon. The retail chain operates more than 5,750 drugstores in 48 states and Puerto Rico.

"We open a store every 18 hours," said Walgreens spokeswoman Carol Hively. "One reason we are opening drugstores so quickly is the increasing demand. As baby boomers age, drug sales are increasing rapidly. We are opening 500 stores this year, also the next year and year after. People are living longer, well into their 90s, and they are using more and more prescription drugs."

The 14,744-square-foot store on 1.17 acres is valued at just over $1.2 million, according to city building permit records, and is a bit larger than the 13,650-square-foot Grants Pass store that opened in 2003.

Steve Hargis, the new store's manager, has been with Walgreens in the Sacramento area, where the chain has 10 stores. Hively said hiring is almost complete for the store's roughly 25 positions, save for a pharmacist or two.

Although some Walgreens operate 24 hours, the new Medford store and its drive-up window will be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

"About a third of our stores are open 24 hours," Hively said. "It depends on the need in the community and if the store is near an emergency room that's open 24 hours."

Walgreens hoped to enter the Medford market much earlier, but had to bide its time while first finding a location and then waiting for its plans to wind through the city's approval process.

The hoped-for construction start date was November 2005, but the Rogue Valley Transportation District challenged the store plans because of setback and parking regulation objections. Ultimately, Medford gave its blessing to the project.

"We choose our locations pretty carefully," Hively said. "Not only for what happens when they open, but many years into the future. We have such specific criteria that it's not unusual to wait years for the right location and corner."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.