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Bartell Drugs

Bartell Drugs
Founded1890 Seattle, Washington
HeadquartersSeattle, Washington

Bartell Drugs is a chain of pharmacies in the Puget Sound area of the U.S. state of Washington. The company is the oldest family-owned drugstore chain in the United States. George D. Bartell, grandson of the founder, serves as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Jean (Bartell) Barber, the founder’s granddaughter, is the Chief Financial Officer of the company.



George H. Bartell was born in 1869. At age 14 he left his family's farm and moved to Lincoln, Kansas, where he spent the next four years apprenticing in pharmacy at a local drug store. By age 18 he was considered a full-fledged pharmacist.

Lured by the stories of opportunities in the West, Bartell left Kansas in 1887 on a Milwaukee Road train heading toward the little-known Washington Territory. One month later, not yet 19, he arrived in Seattle with $15 in his pocket.

Over the next few years Bartell supported himself with various jobs -- including one as a real estate broker -- occasionally filling in as a pharmacist. He started Bartell Drug Co. in 1890 when he purchased The Lake Washington Pharmacy at 2711 Jackson St. in Seattle from its disenchanted owners after only working there two weeks. Bartell took residence, in the back of the store where he began working seven days a week filling prescriptions at all hours.

Bartell worked hard to make his business a success, and by 1897 his business was doing reasonably well. However, the arrival of the steamer Portland at the Seattle waterfront with what was described as a "ton of gold" from the Yukon Territory, sparked the Alaska Gold Rush and soon inspired a gold fever in the young pharmacist that was too hard for him to resist. After turning his pharmacy over to his assistant Bartell was on a steamer headed toward the Yukon. He returned to Seattle a year later with enough gold to pay for most of his trip expenses and to fund a vision of Bartell Drugs' future.

Bartell embarked on an ambitious plan to open several drugstores, in the downtown Seattle area. His goal was to open stores with his fundamental policies, "that stores be conveniently located, amply stocked, clean and attractive." With those policies in mind, he opened a second drugstore -- Bartell's Owl Drug Store at 506 Second Ave. in 1898. The store was named for the long hours Bartell kept while filling prescriptions.

Bartell Drug formally incorporated in 1904. Over the next 35 years, Bartell would open 18 stores at convenient locations throughout Seattle; stores that became some of the first in the West to offer in-store soda fountains as well as film developing. The company grew to operate its own photo lab, candy factory and commissary for soups and the like sold at the store's lunch counters.

In March 1956, after a brief illness, George H. Bartell Sr. passed away at age 87, ending a 66-year career with Bartell Drugs. He was inducted into the Puget Sound Business Hall of Fame in 1997. Bartell was recognized for his innovation, persistence and vision. He is considered a model for business leaders of today and a business role model for today's young people.

George H. Bartell Jr., who had started as a warehouseman, was elected president of the company in 1939. Several stores opened after World War II and, in 1950, Bartell Drug became the first drugstore to open in a regional shopping center, the Northgate Mall. The next several years were a period of restructuring for the company, where operations were streamlined and some stores were closed. The first store opened outside of Seattle was opened in Bellevue, Washington in 1962 across from Bellevue Square.

After 51 years George Bartell Jr. stepped down in 1990 and his son, George D. Bartell, was elected president of the company. Jean (Bartell) Barber, the founder's granddaughter, is chief financial officer.

Today Bartell Drugs operates 55 locations throughout the Puget Sound, the latest one having been open in May of 2007 in the Rainier Valley.


The store's competitors today are national chain drugstores Walgreen's and Rite Aid.

Mission Statement

  "To serve the neighborhood drugstore needs of the region's customers better than anyone else."


  • Drug Store News, Feb 7, 1994. "Bartell thrives in a sea of change" by Allene Symons
  • Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle) - June 14, 2002. Family-owned Bartell Drug still strong after 112 years. Company marketing touts customer service and community focus. by Rob Smith, Assistant Managing Editor]
  • HistoryLink - Bartell, George H. Sr. (1868-1956)
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Bartell_Drugs". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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