South State Street CVS Pharmacy slated to open its doors in mid-March

Samantha Trauben/Daily
The new CVS Pharmacy located at 209 South State St. is expected to open on Sunday, March 20. Buy this photo

BY K.C. WASSMAN
Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 7, 2011

The 200 block of South State Street now has a building with a glowing red and white sign in front of a refurbished white façade instead of scaffolding and bulldozers.

After about nine months of construction, including sidewalk and street closures, the CVS on South State Street is slated to open its doors on March 20. The pharmacy has been part of a citywide discussion on the changing nature of downtown Ann Arbor.

The upcoming CVS will join five other CVS pharmacies in the area, and CVS officials say they have high hopes for the new location.

“When we add multiple stores in an area, it means we want to make sure we’re adequately serving a community,” Mike DeAngelis, director of public relations at CVS, said.

DeAngelis said work will still be done on the inside the building before the opening.

During the building’s construction some debate has centered on whether a chain store would mesh with the historic buildings that comprise downtown Ann Arbor.

The State Street location that CVS now occupies has a historic background. The façade of the building was built in the 1930s, and the original structure — demolished in the store’s construction — was erected in 1899. Ann Arbor’s Historic District Commission allowed CVS to tear down the old building except for the façade in May 2009.

The chain convenience store 7-Eleven opened in January, several blocks down on South State Street from the forthcoming CVS. The store’s owner Linda Russ said at the time that she hoped to have the store join the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber of Commerce, as well as the State Street Association, and integrate into the community.

Diane Keller, president and CEO of the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber of Commerce, said in an interview in January that the group has various businesses and organizations that are chains and members.

However, some community members don’t want chain stories moving in, DeAngelis said. Despite the opposition, he said he isn’t concerned about this affecting the new CVS.

“What generally happens is that we’re welcomed in once (residents) come in (to CVS) and have been there,” DeAngelis said.

The company originally bought the property on State Street because of its convenient location, DeAngelis said.

“It’s a great site with lots of foot traffic,” he said.

DeAngelis said he doesn’t think other pharmacies in the area will pose a problem for CVS, adding that the franchise offers a more convenient shopping experience.

However, Debra Cook, manager of The Village Apothecary — a locally owned pharmacy on South University Avenue affiliated with Sav-Mor Drug Stores — said she doesn’t think people will seek out the South Street CVS if they aren’t nearby.

“I think in the wintertime if (customers) need something, and they’re in the area (of South University), they’re not going to walk all the way over there,” she said.

Cook added that despite CVS being a chain pharmacy with a large national presence, it can’t compete with The Village Apothecary which is more than 50 years old and has loyal customers from the community.

“We’re more like a home-type family business, compared to a chain where no one knows your name,” Cook said. “I’ve had customers come in and say I’m here because I was at CVS, didn’t like the way I was treated and I don’t want to be a number.”

But some students said despite CVS being a chain store, they favor the pharmacy's lower costs.

Business sophomore Jordan Kaye said he thinks CVS will provide a source for students to purchase less expensive essentials and toiletries, which is a major priority for students on a tight budget.

LSA senior Kaili McKnight said the new CVS will provide an accessible option for students without personal transportation to travel to drugstores farther from campus.

“I think it’ll be more convenient for all the students because some students don’t have access because they don’t have cars, so it’ll just be easier for them," McKnight said.

Kaye said despite CVS being a chain, he doesn't think it will have a big impact on State Street's image.

"I think people like CVS," Kaye said. "CVS is a big name, so I guess that may hurt (State Street), but I still don’t think so."

But McKnight said it is "disheartening" that CVS may take away from locally owned businesses like The Village Apothecary.

“I do think it’s a big deal," she said.