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Bartell Drugs’ success all in the family

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The Bartell family, owners of the Seattle-area chain Bartell Drugs, this week received some well-earned recognition for their dedication to the community and business heritage.

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Jean Barber and George D. Bartell

Seattle Business magazine presented the Bartells with the 2016 Washington Family Business Award for Legacy in an event Wednesday evening at Seattle’s Westin Hotel.

Eleven other Washington family enterprises — each averaging over 77 years of continuous family ownership — also were in the running for the award.

But the drug chain said the Bartells were ultimately selected in honor of their long tenure, sustained business acumen and stature, and duty to service and community.

The third and fourth generations of the Bartell family were at event, including George D. Bartell, chairman of Bartell Drugs; his sister Jean Bartell Barber, vice chairwoman; and Evelyn Merrill, senior manager of digital.

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A Bartell Drugs store circa 1918

Bartell Drugs is the nation’s oldest family-owned drug chain, marking its 125th anniversary last year.

The retailer has been continuously owned by the Bartell family since its origin in Seattle’s Central District. George H. Bartell Sr. opened his first drug store in 1890, and the company has since grown to 65 stores in western Washington’s King, Snohomish and Pierce counties.

Anyone browsing a Bartell store will quickly notice the distinct local flavor of the decor and product offerings. Two more stores are slated to open next year in Seattle’s Greenlake neighborhood and on the Eastside’s Snoqualmie Ridge.

In 2015, the leadership of Bartell Drugs was passed to Brian Unmacht, who took the CEO reins from George D. Bartell and represented first non-Bartell leader of the company.


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