LITTLE CANADA, Minn.
The sun was shining bright and spirits were high as CVS Caremark executives and city and state officials gathered here on Thursday to celebrate the grand opening of the pharmacy retailer’s 7,000th store.
“I am certainly delighted to see such a terrific turnout, and just when we were getting ready to start you can see the sun came out, and we think that is a very good sign as we open our 7,000th store,” Larry Merlo, president of CVS/pharmacy, told attendees of the milestone event.
The new store marks the company’s 41st location in the state and the 7,000th store since the retailer first opened its doors in Massachusetts in 1963 initially under the “Consumer Value Stores” banner. The company entered the state of Minnesota five years ago and today employs more than 1,000 people in the state.
In talking with Drug Store News, Merlo said the company has a healthy pipeline of stores and is looking to open between 275 and 300 stores a year nationwide — which, not including acquisitions, is pretty consistent with its number of openings in the last three to four years.
“We still have lots of opportunity for growth,” Merlo said.
Nested along busy Rice Street, at 2650 Rice St. to be specific, the new 13,000-sq.-ft. store is the retailer’s current prototype with a full-service pharmacy and double-lane drive-thru; digital photo cafe that provides customers with a relaxing atmosphere while they customize and print their own pictures; and a complete line of health and beauty products, general merchandise and convenience food items.
While this newest location does not feature a MinuteClinic, there is a MinuteClinic location at a nearby CVS store and, in fact, about two dozen of the CVS stores in the state have a MinuteClinic.
To celebrate the opening, local residents filled the parking lot to enjoy hot dogs and refreshments as the local Johnson Senior High School marching band kicked off the festivities in style.
CVS executives, including Merlo and SVP Hanley Wheeler, addressed the crowd, as did several officials, including Little Canada Mayor Bill Blesener and Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Dan McElroy.
“To have 7,000 stores is quite an accomplishment, and we feel quite honored to have store No. 7,000 here in our city,” Blesener said.
The opening of the CVS store is among the latest positive development in Little Canada. Two months ago, the city had another reason to celebrate; a St. Jude medical facility of 190,000 sq. ft opened its doors, which is expected to bring in 650 new jobs to the city.
“With 7,000 locations, we are the largest retail pharmacy in America. As part of CVS Caremark, we are the No. 1 provider of prescriptions in pharmacy-related health services in the country,” Merlo said. “CVS Caremark is the only fully integrated pharmacy healthcare company in the United States, and our pharmacy care services actually allow us to provide a greater a convenience and choice for patients to improve patient outcomes and lower overall healthcare costs.”
During the event, Merlo announced that Minnesota is participating in the company’s free seasonal flu shot program. CVS is partnering with the Department of Employment and Economic Development to provide more than 2,500 vouchers for a free flu shot to the unemployed in Minnesota. The 2,500 vouchers, a $75,000 value, will be distributed through 11 WorkForce Centers in the Twin Cities area.
Nationwide, the retailer is holding more than 9,000 scheduled flu clinics in CVS stores and, as part of the campaign, is providing more than $3 million worth of free seasonal flu shots to unemployed Americans through vouchers good for a free flu shot in any MinuteClinic or any of the scheduled CVS/pharmacy flu clinics.
CVS also handed out flu prevention kits containing CVS brand products like hand sanitizers to the first 100 shoppers at the store.
To further mark the occasion, CVS presented a $7,000 donation to the Courage Center, a Minnesota-based rehabilitation and resource center that advances the lives of children and adults experiencing barriers to health and independence. The donation is in keeping with CVS’ philanthropic program All Kids Can, a five-year, $25 million initiative to help children with disabilities. Accepting the donation on behalf of the Courage Center was Jan Malcolm, CEO of Courage Center.
With the sun in full force, an official ribbon cutting and round of applause wrapped up the presentation as a voice from the crowd shouted, “Let’s go shopping!”