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America's Corner Store: Walgreen's Prescription for Success

ISBN: 978-0-471-42617-2
255 pages
May 2004


Praise for America's Corner Store

"Who would have thought the story of a drugstore chain could encompass so much vital and fascinating American history? With superb storytelling skills, John Bacon gives us a vivid and insightful chronicle of matters both large and small, from the birth of the milkshake to the rise of America's consumer culture. America's Corner Store is a genuine treat."
-James Tobin
the National Book Critics' Circle--Award winner, and author of To Conquer the Air: The Wright Brothers and the Great Race for Flight

"Run the business with your head. Lead the family with your heart. Walgreens' history is filled with good values, strong principles, and immense courage. A family business classic."
-Howard "Howdy" S. Holmes
President and CEO, "Jiffy" Mixes

"John Bacon has crafted a thorough, insightful, readable, and fascinating account of the development of Walgreens: one of the world's most compelling examples of the creation of shareholder value in conjunction with good corporate governance... all in a company run in a highly unique fashion as a 'family' business. As the store that everyone knows, Walgreens has become the envy of corporate America and the darling of shareholders, consistently producing investor returns that place it at the very top among its peers. This book will be required reading in my private equity class at Michigan Business School."
-Professor David Brophy
Director, Center for Venture Capital and Private Equity Finance, University of Michigan Business School
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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Acknowledgments xiii

1 From Humble Beginnings 1

The Apple and the Tree 1

Sweet Home Chicago 7

The State of the Profession 14

Walgreen Does Chicago 22

To Live and Almost Die in Cuba 25

Walgreen Returns 27

The Most Important Merger 30

Diving In—Together 37

2 The Start of Something Special: 1910–1929 43

On His Own 43

The Secrets of the Second Store 44

I Scream, You Scream 47

The Hot Lunch Program 48

Cultivating Leaders 50

Growing Like Topsy 52

The Pepper Pod 55

Steppin’ Out 59

Chicago in the Roaring Twenties 61

On the Lighter Side 65

Fundamental Values 69

Putting Out Fires 71

The Walgreen Creed 74

The Knight Report 75

“Absolute Dominance” 82

If They Can Make It Here 83

Read All about It 86

Chain Fight 88

The Good Life 92

3 Nothing to Fear: 1929–1945 95

Facing Fear Itself 95

Better Days Are Coming 96

Helping the Mom-and-Pop Shops 101

Walgreens’ Own: From Coffee to Corn Remover 105

Getting the Word Out 109

Damn the Depression, Full Speed Ahead! 111

Finding Time for Fun 117

The Son Also Rises 119

The Accidental Benefactor 122

Charles’s Demise 126

Defusing a Palace Coup 129

There’s a War On 134

Where Everyone Meets 137

4 The Postwar Era: 1945–1970 139

The Power Era 139

Mergers and Acquisitions 141

All Power to the Pharmacist 144

Partners in Health 145

Battling the Bargain Stores 149

The Self-Service Revolution 151

The Shopping Center Is Born 159

The Four-Way Test 161

Chuck’s Legacy 163

5 Reinventing the Corporation: 1970–1990 167

State of the Company 168

Looking for a Few Good Men 171

Walgreen’s Wingman 174

The Turn-Around Team 177

Killing Off Their Little Darlings 182

The Systems behind the Smiles 187

Walgreens Goes High-Tech 189

Vindication 191

6 Poised to Pounce: 1990–Future 193

“This Is Dan Jorndt, How May I Help You?” 193

Plain and Proud of It: The Anti-Enron 197

Getting the Right People Ready 207

A Good Corner Is a Good Corner 211

Passing the Torch 215

Hello, My Name Is Dave 217

Constant Competition 220

Walgreens’ Advantages 223

The Future Is Now 224

Appendix A

Walgreens Financial Facts 227

Appendix B

Historic Highlights 229

Notes 233

Index 249

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Author Information

JOHN U. BACON has written on a wide variety of subjects for Time magazine, Fortune magazine, and the New York Times, among other publications, earning several national honors for his work. A former feature writer for the Detroit News, he has also authored Blue Ice: The Story of Michigan Hockey, ghost-written several business bestsellers, and currently hosts a weekly radio show. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
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