Wednesday November 22, 2023
Bartell Drugs #10 Closed
Yesterday I went to see a doctor on Madison Avenue in First Hill in Seattle, and she mentioned something about prescriptions. I wasn't getting any, but the reference reminded me of something my wife told me she'd overheard two cashiers at Bartell Drugs, just a block down on Madison, say a few weeks earlier. That the store was closing. In a few weeks.
“Yeah, I don't think they're closing that one,” the doctor said when I relayed this. “At least I hope not. We send a lot of patients there.”
After the appointment, I walked by the store and saw this:
Empty shelves, locked doors.
The family-run Bartell Drugs began in the Pac NW 135 years ago but was bought by Pennsylvania-based Rite Aid in 2020 and immediately began to go downhill. Then, as we all know, the move from brick-and-mortars was exacerbated by the pandemic. Last month, Rite Aid filed for bankruptcy. It's $3-$4 billion in the hole.
We lost our local drugstore, in other words, because of a combination of things I hate: mergers, national chains, and everything everywhere online. The Madison store was also vulnerable because of something else I hate: theft from homeless drug addicts, most likely fentanyl addicts, which necessitated hiring security.
It might've been shuttered anyway. According to The Seattle Times, Rite Aid has closed/is near closing 12 Bartell's since Oct. 15. That's about three a week. And a quarter of the stores have been shuttered since the merger/acquisition. Customers can't even keep up:
After Seattle resident Joe Norman, 76, learned that his Bartell on Madison Street near Swedish would close Nov. 16, he switched to the Bartell half a mile away on Broadway — “and then I learned this week that they're closing as well.”
I go to a different place for prescriptions but I got a lot of over-the counter stuff there: eye drops, omeprazole, toothpaste, soap, shaving cream. It's where I got 12-packs of Diet Coke. I bought Mounds bars for Patricia. I got Jellybean cat treats. I got my COVID booster there Nov. 6. They were overworked then.
When was I last in the store? Last week? This past weekend? I didn't know it would be the last-last. Ever since Patricia told me of the overheard conversation, I kept looking for a sign—a literal sign—that the store was closing. They didn't put it up until they closed.