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Sushi at Walgreens? New State Street store offers urban format

Sushi Chefs Radicel Loth Adam SakurayamFernando Pascuprepare sushi Walgreens new concept flagship State Randolph. Monday January 9 2012 | Brian

Sushi Chefs Radicel Loth, Adam Sakurayama and Fernando Pascua prepare sushi at Walgreens new concept flagship at State and Randolph. Monday, January 9, 2012 | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 11, 2012 8:13AM

Walgreens is trying a new approach at an old location: State and Randolph. The Deerfield-based drugstore giant is reopening Tuesday with a new format that shows just how high-end it can go, with a $450 imported wine and a $192 skin-care cream sitting amid a gleaming, well-lit smorgasbord of sushi, serve-yourself yogurt and an iPad-equipped health guide at the pharmacy clinic.

The store features ready-to-go packaged fruits and meals, a barista serving coffee, a three-person nail bar, an eyebrow-shaping service, a high-end cosmetics department and chocolates, cupcakes, cookies and beers made by Chicago companies.

The two-story building at 151 N. State housed a Walgreens store from 1926 to 2005, and now replaces off-price retailer Loehmann’s, which closed a year ago.

The store is aimed at tourists, downtown office workers and the new downtown condo dwellers who have few grocery stores and who are willing to pay for new, internationally sourced wines, cosmetics and other goods, said Bryan Pugh, Walgreen’s vice president and chief merchandising officer, who led the Sun-Times on a tour Monday.

The 21,000-square-foot store employs 84, or about 15 more than a conventional Walgreens that measures 13,000 square feet.

Among the highlights:

†Sushi makers employed by Advanced Fresh Concepts Corp. who make the meals on-site at the main-entrance sushi bar, which sells packaged variety packs for $8.89 to $10.89, among other items.

†A beauty-makeup machine that takes your photo and immediately shows how you will look wearing any item that you scan, such as blue eyeshadow, dramatic eyelashes and prominent rouge. You may email the photo and share it with friends.

†A self-serve fro-yo yogurt machine — a first at a Walgreens store — offering nine flavors, including triple chocolate, strawberry, French vanilla and cookies and cream, from $4.99 to $5.99.

†A barista serving coffee from Andersonville-based Metropolis Coffee Co., which also provides bagged coffee in the store aisles.

†A smoothie bar serving three kinds of smoothies — built from fruits, from fresh juices and fruits blended and as malts.

†Chocolates and packaged truffles from Chicago companies Sarah’s Pastries, Katherine Anne, Sulpice, Scharffen Berger and Vogues Haut-Chocolat.

†Nine cases of frozen ready-to-eat foods versus two at a conventional Walgreens. Chicago companies Reggio’s and Home Run Inn are among the frozen-pizza offerings, as well as Walgreens’ higher-end private label DeLish.

†More than 400 wines compared with 70 at a regular Walgreens, with Berlinger Private Reserve at $99.99 and Penfolds Grange selling for $449.99. The average wine sales are expected to be between $18 and $24.

†A variety of beers, including craft beers made by Goose Island, 312, Two Brothers Brewery and Great Lakes Brewing Co.

†A second-floor pharmacy where the pharmacist stands out front to answer questions, a “wellness guide” walks around with an iPad to help answer customers’ questions, a Take Care clinic with two rooms and express prescription-pickup machines for regular pharmacy patients. Two screens — one devoted to stopping smoking and the other to a heart-healthy lifestyle — walk customers through a series of questions to help them find products to their liking.

†Chicago’s only “Look Boutique,” with the nail bar (regular manicures start at $10), an eyebrow bar designed by celebrity eyebrow groomer Ramy Gafni and overseas cosmetics lines such as Gosh (Denmark), 417 (Israel), Klorvane (Paris) and Talika (Paris). Nail polish by Essie ($8) and OPI ($8.50) are sold near the nail bar.

†Not usually found cosmetics lines such as Becca, Pop Beauty, purminerals, Vera Moore, tini beauty and StudioMakeup. High-end offerings include Rilastil (a nourishing cream goes for $192), Avene, Vichy and Le Couvent des Minimes.

†Packaged fresh fruits — a mixture of carrots, apples and grapes for $1.99 or a single fruit cup for $1.99 to $2.49 — surrounding the sushi bar.

†Two local bakeries — Chicago Gourmet and Lovely, a Bake Shop — deliver fresh daily goodies. Lovely’s does cupcakes, macaroons, Danish and other sweets. Chicago Gourmet features specialty breads.

By the end of the year, customers who look forward to rewards for frequenting a retailer, such as those offered by supermarkets and Walgreens rival CVS, will be able to use Walgreens loyalty cards or wireless loyalty rewards. Pugh declined to provide details of the kinds of rewards to be offered, but the loyalty card will be offered in addition to Walgreens’ regular coupons and specials.

Several of the Chicago store’s offerings, including the sushi bar, nail salon, fresh-food market and upscale beauty department, have attracted crowds at Walgreen’s Duane Reade flagship store that opened this past July at 40 Wall Street in an iconic building in New York, Pugh said. Walgreen acquired the Duane Reade drugstore chain in April for $1.1 billion, in part to take advantage of the New York City stores’ innovations in retail and cosmetics.

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