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Looking back on Bartell Drugs’ local history after bankruptcy

There’s never been a better time to support locally owned-pharmacies.

A black and white photo of Bartell Drug in 1927

Bartell Drugs is over 130 years old.

Photo by Webster & Stevens via Wikimedia Commons

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ICYMI — Rite Aid filed for bankruptcy last week and plans to close 154 locations across the nation this November. This includes six stores in the Seattle area — two Rite Aids in Mill Creek and Everett and four Bartell Drug locations in Redmond, Bellevue, and Lynnwood.

While the closings will certainly cause inconveniences for a lot of residents, the news comes with a greater significance as Bartell was a locally-owned chain for 130 years.

A little history

Bartell Drugs sold to Rite Aid in 2020 for $95 million, but had deep Seattle roots beforehand. Here’s a little timeline of events.

  • 1890 | George H. Bartell Sr. — a 21-year-old pharmacist — buys Lake Washington Pharmacy in Central District.
  • 1917 | The pharmacy opens a photo lab at its 1906 Boren Ave. location — a groundbreaking service at the time.
  • 1939 | George H. Bartell Jr. takes over the business.
  • 1990 | His son, George D. Bartell, continues the legacy.
  • 1993 | Jean Bartell-Barber — the founder’s granddaughter — joins the company.
  • 2015 | The first non-family CEO, former REI executive Brian Unmacht, takes the helm.
  • 2020 | Bartell sells to Rite Aid for $95 million.

Use the slider below to see what the location on Greenwood Avenue and 85th Street looked like in the 1950s and now. Did you know? There’s still a Bartell on this street.

Locally owned pharmacies

Support locally-owned pharmacies in Seattle. Here are just a couple of independent stores that have been around for decades: