OSCO Drug Celebrates 75 Years of Serving Customers
JEWEL-OSCO, a leading Midwest food and drug retailer, announced the company is celebrating a major milestone in 2012 – the 75th anniversary of OSCO Drug. There are full-service OSCO Drug pharmacies within 173 JEWEL-OSCO stores in Oak Lawn and across Illinois, Iowa and Northwest Indiana.
During the past several decades, the role of the neighborhood pharmacy has changed considerably, and OSCO Drug has consistently evolved over the years to meet its customers’ changing needs. Today, in addition to filling prescriptions, OSCO Drug pharmacies offer vaccines, including flu, shingles and whooping cough; diabetes education; and a variety of health screenings, such as blood sugar, cholesterol and vitamin D.
“We are very proud that we have been a longtime leader in the Midwest retail pharmacy business,” said JEWEL-OSCO President Brian Huff. “OSCO Drug’s success these past 75 years has been due in large part to the hard work and dedication of our past and current associates and to the teamwork of our many fine suppliers.”
OSCO Drug dates back to 1937, when the first store was opened in Rochester, Minn., under the “Pay-Less” name. The store was the first to have a large assortment of medications on open display, including aspirin and laxatives, which had previously been kept behind the counter.
It was a very different era. According to the 1940 US Census, the average family had 3.76 people, compared to 3.18 people today, and men made up 79 percent of the labor force, compared to women, who held 26 percent of jobs. The average annual wage was $956 for men and $592 for women.
There were few prescription medications offered, compared to today, and most prescriptions that were available were purchased on a cash and carry basis, because insurance for medications was not available at that time. Also, many of the medications offered were broad-spectrum drugs that treated a range of health symptoms, instead of the more targeted treatments seen today.
In this environment, during the late 1930s, Pay-Less became Self-Service Drug, Inc. and new stores were opened across the Midwest. Then, in 1942, Self-Service Drug, Inc. was succeeded by Owners Service Company, from which the name OSCO was coined. An OSCO Drug ad in a May 1944 edition of the Globe Gazette newspaper in Mason City, Iowa, advertised Palmolive soap for 25 cents, a scrub brush for 7 cents and a package of Tums for 89 cents.
By 1961, there were 31 stores in six Midwestern states, and OSCO Drug merged with JEWEL Companies. During the early 1960s, the first JEWEL-OSCO grocery and pharmacy combination store opened.
Nancy Harstad has been a pharmacist with the firm for 40 years, and works at an OSCO Drug pharmacy in a Chicago suburb.
“Over the years, OSCO Drug has always been on the cutting edge, compared to its competitors,” said Harstad. “Obviously, there have been so many improvements and enhancements over time of how pharmacists type, count and fill orders correctly. OSCO Drug had drug-counting machines and computerized drug interaction information before its competitors. This has allowed us to work better, easier and smarter.”
In addition to JEWEL-OSCO, OSCO Pharmacies can be found at ALBERTSONS, SHAW’S and STAR MARKET, which are also part of the SUPERVALU family of grocery and pharmacy retailers. To help celebrate OSCO’s 75th anniversary, past and present JEWEL-OSCO associates recently attended a special event in St. Charles, Ill.