Osco Drug is a chain of pharmacy stores which today operate as in-store pharmacies under Supervalu Pharmacies. Osco Pharmacies are found in Jewel and Shaw’s supermarkets. Since 2006, Osco is a wholly owned subsidiary of Supervalu Pharmacies of Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based SuperValu. The company at its height operated Osco Drug, Osco Pharmacy, Sav-on Drugs, and Sav-on Pharmacy.
The Skaggs Family – Osco and Savon’s roots
The Osco story starts long before the first Osco was opened. In 1915, S.M. Skaggs
, a Baptist minister from Missouri settled in American Falls, Idaho
. Prices on all commodities in American Falls were high and Skaggs formulated a plan to overcome the problem. He opened a store himself, totally different from stores of the day. Skaggs reduced prices and offered a cash and carry
service with low margins to create high volume. S.M Skaggs had 12 children. The six sons: Pepper Oscar (O.P.), Marion Barton (M.B.), Loronzo L. (L.L), Samuel Olnie (L.S.), Levi Justin (L.J.), and Aron Sylvester (S.A.) helped with the operation of the store. In 1917, O.P Skaggs started his own chain of self-service stores and later sold the franchise in the western states to Christian Call (In 1945 Call would later open the first Sav-on store in San Bernardino, California). In 1919 brothers M.B., L.S., L.L., and L.J. formed a partnership called Skaggs United Stores. This company later became the Safeway
grocery chain and was led by M.B. Skaggs. L.J. Skaggs retired from Safeway
in 1932 and in 1934 opened the first self-service drugstore in the United States
in Tacoma, Washington
. He applied the principle of self-service that he had learned in the grocery business to his drugstore.
The First Store
Loronzo L. (L.L.) Skaggs owned a controlling stock in a company called Quality Food in Minnesota and susequently left the Safeway
business. L.L. opened a chain of self-service drugstores in the Midwest
similar to his brother L.J.’s stores in the west. The first store opened in 1937 in Rochester, Minnesota
and was named “Pay-Less” (different from the drug chain Payless
founded later in the century), and was managed by George Hilden. The store remained in operation until 1987 and was later closed that year due to redevelopment in downtown Rochester.
In 1937 while in the process of opening a second store in Mason City, Iowa it was learned that another company had already registered the name “Payless” in the state. L.L changed “Payless” to “Self-Service Drug, Inc.” and formed a new corporation.
Name Change to Osco
In 1942, the corporation “Self-Service Drug, Inc.” was dissolved and succeeded by "Owners Service Company", a partnership of L.L Skaggs, H.B. Finch, Paul Stratton and George Hilden. From this company 'Osco' was coined. This year Osco moved its headquarters from Waterloo, Iowa
to the Merchandise Mart
in Chicago, Illinois
The Jewel Companies, Inc.
In 1961, The Jewel Companies Inc. acquired the 31 Osco Drug stores in six Midwest states. In 1962, Osco's headquarters was moved from Chicago's Merchandise Mart to Melrose Park, Illinois. It was also in that year that the first side-by-side Jewel and Osco store opened. The early Jewel Osco combination (combo) stores were two individual stores, separated by an interior wall (and in some locations, a half-wall), allowing a customer to go back and forth between each store without having to go outside. Osco's merger with Jewel resulted in tremendous growth for Osco. In 1966 the first Osco in New England was opened. By 1968, Osco grew to 168 stores in sixteen states. During most of the 1960s, Osco operated as two divisions – 'City Osco', comprised of the Chicago, Illinois and Chicago suburb stores and 'Country Osco' (all the other Oscos). These two divisions were combined in 1968 and formed Osco Drug, Inc. Also in 1968, Osco's headquarters relocated from Melrose Park, Illinois to Franklin Park, Illinois. Later that year, the Jewel Imports procurement group was established to import a broad range of general merchandise from around the world to sell in Osco stores.
The Jewel Companies Inc. acquired Buttrey's in 1966, and many of the stores were converted to a combination store format and bannered as "Buttrey-Osco" with common checkout stands but separate store management, all under one roof. By the early 1980s, Buttrey would eventually operate 60 stores as Buttrey Food & Drug in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, western Minnesota, Wyoming, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, Utah, and Idaho as Buttrey Food & Drug. Stores were spread thinly over a 2,000 mile wide territory.
Outside of Chicagoland, Osco operated as stand alone pharmacies (or free standing stores). In the early years, many of the Jewel and Osco combination stores maintained different operating hours from one another and on certain days such as holidays, one side of the combo store would be open, while the other would be closed. By the early 1980s new and remodeled combo stores had the 'wall' removed and the store became one, and to this day, Osco retains control over drug, general merchandise, pharmacy and liquor departments in the Jewel Osco combo stores.
In the late 1960s, Osco was looking into purchasing or building a photofinishing plant to service its stores. At the time, the company was using outside vendors and the film developing quality and service was not consistent. In 1970 working with Kodak, Osco built a photofinishing lab from scratch in Elgin, Illinois. The facility, Crest Photo Lab opened in 1971 and serviced Osco's Chicagoland, Central and Eastern region stores. The Elgin photo lab expanded several times over the years. As both Osco and its photofinishing market share grew, three more photo plants were added: Alves Photo Service Braintree, Massachusetts in 1980, Rich Photo Lab Salt Lake City, Utah in 1984 and Drewry Photocolor Burbank, California in 1987 renamed to Crest Photo in 1988. The photo labs were sold to Kodak's Qualex photo processing division in 1996 prompted by the emergence of in-store one hour photo labs and digital photography technology.
In 1974, Osco's headquarters were relocated from Franklin Park, Illinois to a new facility at 1818 Swift Drive in Oak Brook, Illinois.
Acquisition of Sav-on Drugs
In November 1980, The Jewel Companies Inc. purchased Sav-on Drugs, Inc. Sav-on Drugs was headquarted in Anaheim, California and had 150 stores in California, Nevada and Texas. The Sav-on chain became Osco's 'Western Region'.
American Stores Company
In 1984, American Stores Company
, which consisted of Alpha Beta
food stores in the west, Acme
food stores in the east and Skaggs Drug Centers in the Rocky Mountain, southwestern, and northwestern states, acquired The Jewel Companies Inc.
plans to build a coast to coast drugstore chain in the United States
was underway. The strategy was to build a nationwide network of pharmacies, streamline operations and advertising and gain national recognition for the brand, especially for the high-margin private label products. The name Osco Drug was chosen as the national chain name because of the large number of stores which already had that name and existed in various parts of the United States
. The name change was completed for the Skaggs drugstores in 1985 and the for the Sav-on stores in 1986. The name "Osco" did not resonate well with Sav-on's southern California customer base. American Stores
eventually made the decision to change the name of the former Sav-on stores back to Sav-on Drugs. The change was completed in 1990 and the Sav-on Drugs brand was relaunched in southern California
American Drug Stores
In 1989, American Stores
formed the division 'American Drug Stores' which consisted of its drugstore holdings of Osco Drug
, Sav-on Drugs
, the Osco side of the Jewel Osco
food-drug combination stores and RxAmerica. RxAmerica began in 1989 as a mail service prescription fulfillment center with a facility in Salt Lake City, Utah
Sav-on Express - Reliable Drug stores - Clark Drug stores
In 1992, CVS Corporation
exited the southern California
market and sold its 85 CVS/pharmacy
and non-pharmacy health and beauty aid stores to American Stores
for $60 million purchase. These stores had smaller square footage than a traditional Sav-on store and operated as 'Sav-on Express'. The following year the Midwest
region received a boost when Reliable Drug stores (a 65 unit chain) in Indiana
, and Missouri
was bought. These were soon rebannered as Osco Drug
In February 1995 American Stores spent about $37 million for 17 Clark Drug stores in southern California, which were then converted to the Sav-on Drugs name.
Consolidation of Operations
In 1992 American Stores
shifted its strategy from that of a holding company to a centralized operating company. As a result of the decision, common functions among American Stores' operating divisions (procurement, distribution logistics, payroll, human resources, etc.) would be removed from the operating divisions, consolidated and run centrally. From 1992 up through 1998, American Stores consolidated operations and moved responsibilities of their division offices to their headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah
. Although American Stores
' food divisions retained an operating presence in their geographical locations, all drugstore operations based in Oak Brook, Illinois
were relocated to Salt Lake City, Utah
between 1992 and 1998. After American Drug Stores' move to Salt Lake City, Utah
was complete in 1998, Osco's Oak Brook, Illinois
1818 Swift Drive headquarters was sold to the Follett Corporation
In 1994, American Stores
converted 25 Jewel
food stores in Chicago, Illinois
to Osco Drug free standing stores. These older and smaller Jewel stand alone stores were closed so that American Stores
could focus on the combination formats only for Jewel and to expand Osco's presence in Chicago as a response to Walgreens
increasing market dominance. The Osco stores replacing the Jewel stores contained expanded food and produce presentations and were coined 'Osco Foodmarts'.
Health 'n' Home
To extend its core drugstore business, in November 1995 American Drug Stores launched a new category-killer format called Health 'n' Home, which was a 28,000-square-foot, 18,000-item home health care superstore. The first Health 'n' Home opened in Phoenix, Arizona, and by late 1997 there were 20 Health 'n' Home stores in four states.
In 1998 American Stores RxAmerica division and Longs Drug Stores'
Integrated Health Concepts (IHC) division agreed to merge their Pharmacy Benefits Management (PBM) ventures. Under terms of the joint venture, RxAmerica and its former corporate partner, Geneva Pharmaceuticals, parted ways, and RxAmerica combined with Longs' IHC division in a 50/50 partnership. The alliance created a national PBM of nearly 1,400 Longs and American Stores pharmacy outlets and a nationwide network of 40,000 pharmacies serving some 3 million patients under contract. Longs
and Albertsons remained equal partners up though 2001, when Albertsons sold their 50% interest to Longs.
In 1999, American Stores' drugstore division, American Drug Stores (Osco and Sav-On) became Albertsons Drug Stores under Albertsons ownership. The drugstore operations division and general merchandise procurement functions were relocated from Salt Lake City, Utah to Scottsdale, Arizona.
In 2002, Albertsons sold its 84 free-standing Osco Drug stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine to the Jean Coutu Group, a Canadian drugstore company. Jean Coutu rebranded the acquired Osco stores as Brooks Pharmacy. Also in 2002, Albertsons, due to financial difficulties, closed several of its stores across the country including all stores in the Des Moines, Iowa metro market.
In March 2005, Albertsons re-introduced the Osco brand name to the New England region by way of its Shaw's and Star Market pharmacies.
In 2006, the sale of Albertsons essentially split the company into three parts.
CVS Corporation purchased the 700 free-standing drug stores (Osco Drug and Sav-on Drugs). In 2007 all stores were rebranded as CVS/pharmacy.
Cerberus Capital Management purchased the Albertsons stores in Northern California, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Arizona, and New Mexico forming a new corporation called Albertsons LLC. Many of these stores have since been sold to other grocery chains or closed altogether.
SuperValu purchased the Jewel, Acme, Shaw's/Star Market divisions and the remaining Albertsons stores not acquired by Cerberus. SuperValu retains the Osco and Sav-on drug trademarks allowing the pharmacies in their grocery stores to remain branded as Sav-on Pharmacy or Osco Pharmacy.
Osco is now run under Supervalu Pharmacies and is based in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Certain store support functions exist in the Franklin Park, Illinois office.