The store pictured is very typical of Osco Drug stores opened during the first twenty-odd years of the company’s existence. Founded as Pay-Less Drug in Rochester, Minnesota in 1937 by Lorenzo L. Skaggs, scion of one of the Safeway Stores founding families, the company was dubbed Owners Service Company (later shortened to “Osco”) following mergers with a few other small drug chains.
By 1960, Osco had 30 drugstores operating in six Midwestern states – Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota and Iowa. Their success (and favorable geographic locations) had caught the attention of Chicago-based Jewel Tea Company, which was about to embark on a series of diversification moves.
On February 16, 1961 through an exchange of stock, Osco became a wholly owned subsidiary of Jewel Tea. The most obvious advantage that Jewel gained from the merger was the fact that they now had both pharmacy experience and a well-known regional drugstore nameplate in-house, which enabled Jewel to implement its long planned “combination store” strategy, the key to Jewel’s success in the both the sixties and the decades that followed. Jewel was one of the early adopters of the “combination store” format, essentially a supermarket and drugstore under one roof, with or without shared checkstands. Jewel-Osco would prove to be a powerful brand combination, enduring to this day.
Jewel would initially split Osco into two separate operating groups – the first known as the “Main Street” Osco stores, those stores located near the outside limits of the Chicago area (in the downtown areas of such cities as Elgin, Joliet, Waukegan and Rockford, for example), along with downstate cities such as Bloomington. The Main Street group also included all Osco stores outside of Illinois. The second group was known as the “Chicago Osco Drug” group, which of course was made up of the Chicago metropolitan area stores, including those combined with Jewel Food Stores.
Pictured below in a scene of very different character from the first one (but still pretty cool looking) is Rockford’s “new” Osco store in an early 1960’s postcard view. The store had moved some years earlier to a new location directly across the street from the original Osco, the edge of which can be seen to the far right of the photo. Also of interest is the Carson Pirie Scott store, which had replaced the original Block & Kuhl store in that location.