Fifteen months after dozens of Illinois Walgreens stores were damaged during the looting and violence that unfolded across the city last summer, three South Side stores are fully reopening to customers. Customers are still waiting on a fourth store, in the West Elsdon neighborhood.
The Deerfield-based pharmacy chain said it maintained pharmacy services at the stores while they were closed, but some community members were frustrated by the lengthy timeline to have full access.
“It really is a respected place that people rely upon, and now it’s closed,” said Jennipher Adkins, interim executive director of the Chatham Business Association. “It’s been long enough.”
More than 2,100 businesses throughout Chicago were damaged or looted during the civil unrest that erupted in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police. In Illinois, 80 Walgreens sustained at least moderate damage. The company said it spent $35 million on reopening Chicago stores, and most opened relatively quickly.
Four stores took longer because they sustained more extensive structural damage, said Walgreens spokeswoman Kris Lathan.
One store, in the Roseland neighborhood, opened Friday. Stores in Chatham and Gresham are opening this week.
The West Elsdon store had to be entirely rebuilt and the company has not set a reopening date, she said. Earlier this summer, a Cicero man was charged with allegedly setting fire to the building.
“I am happy Walgreens is going to build a new store at 59th Street and Pulaski as a good number of 13th ward constituents rely on that particular location for the pharmacy,” said Ald. Marty Quinn.
Walgreens has four stores roughly a mile and a half from that location, and there is a CVS half a mile away.
The three other stores’ coolers were damaged, and the pandemic delayed delivery of the custom parts required to fix them.
Walgreens wasn’t the only major chain that had several Chicago stores damaged last summer, and some were closed for months, including Walmart’s Chatham and Austin stores. Walmart, Target, CVS and Jewel-Osco said all of their Chicago stores have reopened.
Walgreens maintained pharmacy services while the stores were closed. The Chatham store had a trailer in the parking lot providing vaccinations, prescriptions and items like allergy and cold medications, vitamins and first aid materials. The Gresham and Roseland stores reopened their pharmacies but kept the rest of the store closed.
At the West Elsdon store, customers can get prescriptions through free same-day delivery or pick them up at a nearby Walgreens pharmacy, Lathan said.
Walgreens said customers were more likely to stick to their prescription regimen while the stores were closed because pharmacies did outreach to make sure people knew how to get services while stores were repaired.
Still, Sebrina Robinson, 54, who stopped at the Chatham Walgreens to pick up medication for her brother, said she missed having access to the rest of the store, where she often stopped to get a sandwich or other items on her way to work.
The closest chain pharmacy is at a Jewel-Osco two miles away, though there are closer independent pharmacies.
Hattie Smith, on the other hand, who lives near the Gresham store, said she didn’t mind the limited access because she could still pick up her prescriptions and knew the store would reopen.
“It’s not a big deal,” said Smith, 54. “They’re working on it.”
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