Gonna Need a Bigger Cart

Chinatown Walgreens is not just a pharmacy; it’s a giant ‘Experience’


Walgreens’ new flagship in D.C. has smoothies, above, and quick prescription pickup, below.

Vitamins at pharmacies usually come in pill form. But at the new Walgreens “Well Experience” flagship store in Chinatown, customers can try the chewable kind — from a towering display of bananas, apples and assorted citrus.

“We always carry the stuff you crave,” Walgreens’ Beth Stiller says as she points to the candy aisle. “But we make sure we lead with great, fresh offerings.”

The three-story building at 801 Seventh St. NW — the seventh flagship in the Walgreens chain, and the first in Washington — is attempting to be much more than a drugstore.

It’s also a juice/smoothie bar with D.C.-centric menu items, including Water(melon)gate, a blend of watermelon, pineapple and lemon, and Im“peach”ment, a mix of banana, peach, mango and vanilla rice milk. These made-to-order drinks cost $4 for a small and $5 for a large.

That’s also what you’ll pay over at the frozen yogurt station, which features six flavors — all nonfat or low-fat. Grab a cup and customize your creation with unlimited toppings.

Or head over to the grab-and-go prepared foods section for salads, sushi and petite sandwiches. (There are also plenty of options for folks not worried about their calorie intake, so you may want to avert your eyes from the selection of baked goods from local favorites Buzz and Grassroots Gourmet.)

Up the escalator is the beauty department, which welcomes customers with a replica of the “Apotheosis of Washington,” the fresco in the Capitol rotunda. More impressive, however, may be the free skincare analysis services available.

“And if you happen to have time on your hands, get your nails done,” Stiller says. Manicures are $12.

The store was designed to make sure you’re never waiting around too long, thanks to registers at separate departments in addition to the main checkout area. Customers can also order online and then just swing by Web pickup.

There are similar kiosks in the pharmacy to help speed up the process of getting customers their medications. That’s just one of several steps Walgreens is taking to change the typical health-care experience.

Under-shelf lighting makes it easier to read packaging, Stiller notes. Not sure what to look for? “Answers” panels scattered around the aisles explain what probiotics are and offer quick medical tips.

For anyone who’s still lost, Stiller recommends seeking out the health guide, which she describes as “almost like a concierge.” In theory, that person directs customers with the help of an iPad, although no one was on duty on Saturday, two days after the store’s grand opening.

But the pharmacist was as accessible as promised, standing in front of the counter to answer questions and offering to go into the consultation room with customers who prefer more confidentiality.

There’s also the adjoining Take Care Clinic that can handle vaccines, physicals and other procedures (such as earwax removal).

But hopefully, all you’ll need is the fruit.

Fill the Kit

The D.C. flagship is the first Walgreens to offer an interactive “build your own first-aid kit” display. Customers tap a screen to input details — who the kit is for, where it will be stored, etc. — to find out which products are recommended for their needs.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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