Evolution of Urbanism: “Gourmet Walgreens” Will Offer Sundries and … Sushi?

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Posted March 27, 2013 by Scott Kearnan in Business
Rendering of Look Boutique

I won’t lie. I’ve occasionally snagged dinner from a pharmacy. When you grow up in the suburbs, where the only place open past 9 p.m. is a 24-hour chain drugstore, sometimes a teenager’s only options for a midnight snack are frozen pizzas and bags of candy stocked amid aisles of Sudafed and Listerine. But if you’d told me that one day I’d be eating sushi from Walgreens, I’d have said “No way!”

Yet that’s the next step in the evolution of urbanism that’s happening in downtown Boston. It might be hard to believe, but one of the most hyped business openings of the next few months isn’t a chic restaurant, a cool local boutique, or a hot new nightclub. It’s a Walgreens.

This is no ordinary pharmacy: Slated to open within the next two months in Downtown Crossing—in the huge space that formerly housed a Borders bookstore—is one of three new flagship stores that Walgreens is rolling out in select cities. (New York and Chicago were the first two to receive them; check out a slideshow here.) These high-concept locations combine aspects of a traditional pharmacy with elements of a gourmet grocer, nail salon, cafe, and, yeah, sushi spot.

Besides the usual array of Mentos flavors and Hallmark cards, what’s inside? Here’s a recap:

  • Groceries: Residents of Downtown Crossing will have a new, 24-hour place from which to stock their pantry. Walgreens plans to work with local vendors to fill its grocery shelves, and there also will be pastries, juices and smoothies, frozen yogurt, and sushi from a chef station. Next time you hear Mayor Menino refer to the plan as a “gourmet Walgreens,” as he has taken to calling it, you’ll know why.
  • Booze: Planning a cocktail party? A Beverage Wizard computer system will prompt guests to answer a few questions about the number of guests and the type of food served at their gathering, and generate suggestions on wine pairings and recommended quantities. There will be plenty to choose from, that’s for sure. Expect up to 700 varieties of wine and a big beer selection, too.
  • Mini Makeovers: Drug stores always have been a great place to grab a tube of lipstick or a compact of eye shadow when you’re on the go. But this Walgreens offers a unique “Look Boutique” that deserves a little extra primping time. Here, guests can take a digital photo of themselves and mock it up with makeup to “try on” possible purchases. You can share the images via Facebook, if you need to crowd-source second opinions. (Also in the expansive beauty department will be a nail salon and skin care station.)
  • Luxe Décor: Like Downtown Crossing itself, the look of this Walgreens will blend old and new looks. The building’s amazing architecture will be respected. A fireplace, rich dark woods, brass accents and columns will make this the rare Walgreens that could pass as a parlor.

As new residences open in Downtown Crossing, it’s important that the area provide more of the bare necessities, from groceries and prescription refills to sushi and chewing gum. In furthering the evolution of urbanism downtown, this unique twist on the traditional drugstore could be just what the doctor ordered—no prescription required.

Outside of Future Walgreens

Ready and waiting! The former Borders bookstore space in Downtown Crossing is currently undergoing renovations to become a high-end Walgreens. Photo curtesy of Walgreens.

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