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Walgreens prepares move into our valley

Drugstore chain will build in Grants Pass

GRANTS PASS ' Walgreens, one of the nation's leading drugstore chains, will open its first Southern Oregon store in the summer of 2003.

The 13,650-square-foot store at 111 Union Ave., where the road intersects with Williams Highway, will be the 24th in the state since the Deerfield, Ill., company built the first of its Portland stores in 1996.

Walgreens, which generated &

36;24.6 billion in revenue in 2001, operates 3,900 stores in 43 states and Puerto Rico, employing 141,000.

In 1990 there were about 100 Walgreens, but that was before the 101-year-old company began an aggressive expansion.

We're opening over 450 new stores nationwide a year right now, says company spokesman Michael Polzin. We're entering new markets and expanding in existing ones.

Typically, the chain enters states in metropolitan areas and then builds out to rural areas. The Grants Pass location will be the only one between Salem and Redding, Calif. But that could be for a relatively short period. Hawkins Companies LLC of Boise, which secures, develops and leases sites to Walgreens, has been sizing up Medford in recent months.

We're hopeful to open other locations in (the southern) part of the state at some point in the next few years, Polzin says.

The Grants Pass store, typical of the company's current construction size, includes a pharmacy, one-hour photo facility and a drive-up window for prescriptions. Bids for construction on the Grants Pass store are due at 2 p.m. Thursday. The city's community development office estimates construction costs of &

36;678,000.

We look for locations where we can put a free-standing store at the corner of a major intersection, Polzin says. Convenience is a very important aspect to attracting our customers.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail