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The Walgreen-ing of America

Categories: Community, News

I can’t say I’d ever eaten at Red’z Rib Shack in Maryville, Illinois. But I couldn’t help being a bit saddened when I learned that the ramshackle barbecue joint will soon be leveled to make way for a Walgreens.

As reported in the January 17 issue of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Red’z sits on the now-busy corner of Illinois Routes 159 and 162 amid “new banks, carwashes, businesses and subdivisions.” Land owner Joseph Arnold of Collinsville recently sold the seven-acre spread that includes Red’z to Koman Properties, the developer of some 40 Walgreens in the St. Louis area.

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The Parkmoor Restaurant, one of several local landmarks replaced by Walgreens.
Red’z owner Bryan Warren says he plans to relocate his rib shack. I wish him luck. Red’z is one of at least a half-dozen iconic, local businesses I’ve seen uprooted by Walgreens over the past ten years. All too often, the small business does not survive the move.

The lone exception to my list is the Broadway Diner. The 1960s- era eatery was forced to move from a prominent location in Columbia in 1998 to make way for a Walgreens. Now the diner operates just a few blocks from its original location.

Carriage Bowl and Red Bird Lanes -- two quintessential bowling alleys in south St. Louis -- didn’t fare as well. Red Bird Lanes was sold to Walgreens in 1996 after occupying the corner of Hampton and Gravois avenues since 1958. Among its original owners were Cardinals stars Stan Musial and Joe Garagiola. Later the bowling alley was famous for never closing its doors.

As fun as 24-hour bowling may be, it’s nothing compared to indulging in the pastime without clothes.

In 1999 Walgreens purchased Carriage Bowl on the corner of Kingshighway and Arsenal Street, across from Tower Grove Park. For a time management offered clients the option of bowling naked, according to a Post-Dispatch article commemorating Carriage’s closure. (Shoes were still required.)

Perhaps the most quintessential victimization of a St. Louis landmark at the hands of Walgreens came in 2004, when the pharmacy toppled the Parkmoor Restaurant, which had anchored the corner of Clayton Road and Big Bend Boulevard since 1930. The original restaurant was replaced in the 1970s by a swank, modern structure that sat idle once Walgreens took over the lease to the property in 1999.

I’m sure Walgreens generates far more tax income than the mom-and-pops it replaces, but I doubt anything the pharmacy sells tastes as fine as Red’z ribs or the Parkmoor’s milkshakes.

And I know none of its drugs make you feel as giddy as bowling au naturel.

Do you have your own stories about the places mentioned here, or know of other landmarks replaced by Walgreens? I’d like to hear them. Feel free to comment below.

-Chad Garrison



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