Remembering People’s Drug (Now CVS)

by MCS Staff

“I’m never going to stop calling it Peoples.”

– a bunch of people who call it CVS now

Don’t worry. Many people said the same thing when CVS announced the changing of a name that had been around the area for nearly 90 years.

When the CVS corporation bought the drugstore chain in 1990, they remodeled stores to the CVS format that CVS was already operating in other parts of the Northeast and increased sales before making the decision to change the name four years later in 1994.

The 270 Peoples stores already changed their look, so when the name change occurred four years later…the only thing that changed was the sign on the door,

CVS, which was a division of Rye, Nee York-based retail giant Melville Corp., was already operating 900 drugstores in the Northeast under the CVS name– which stands for Convenience, Value, Service. Initially, CVS stood for Consumer Value Stores.

At the time of the change, The Peoples name been had been in use since the chain was founded in 1905 in Washington D.C.

Peoples Drug was founded by Malcolm Gibbs in 1905 at 824 7th Street, NW. By 1930, it had 110 stores operating under the People Drugs, Days Dryg, and Shearer Drug names. There were variation of the name, with Peoples Service Drug, and Gibbs Peoples Drug being the most common.

According to the Washington Post, in 1970, Peoples had 252 stores operating in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, New York, and New Jersey. That year there were 5,500 employees, with sales of $220 million and profits of $1.87 million.

Later in the year, the chain was purchased by Lane Drug of Toledo, Ohio. Lane Drug’s President, Sheldon “Bud” Fantle, Took over presidency of the chain And helped the expansion continue until Peoples was acquired by the Canadian conglomerate Imasco for $320 million in 1984 (in 1987 Bud Fantle left Peoples and went on to take control of the struggling Dart Drugs, which also had stores in our area).

In late 1990, CVS Corporation purchased Peoples for $330 Million. At this point, Peoples had nearly 300 stores. The previously mentioned changes to the stores’ layout were made with CVS deciding to hold on to the name for the time being.

The decision to change the name was made after CVS surveyed Peoples’ customers and found that 90% of those polled said they would be less bothered by a change than CVS officials thought. In May of 1994, just months before Peoples 90th anniversary, the change was made.

CVS Pharmacy is currently the largest pharmacy chain in the United States in terms of number of locations (over 9,600 as of 2016) and total prescription revenue. It’s parent company, CVS Health, ranks as the fifth largest U.S. corporation by FY2020 revenues in the Fortune 500.



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