BELLEVUE, Wash. — Bartell Drugs’ strategy of leveraging its hyper-local connections to differentiate itself from bigger rivals is on full display at a remodeled and expanded store that had its grand reopening earlier this month.
The 21,100-square-foot store at Bellevue Square, the largest in Bartell’s 61 store empire, is its sixth to include a CareClinic health clinic operated in collaboration with Seattle-based Group Health Cooperative, a member-governed, nonprofit health care system offering insurance and clinical health services to about 600,000 people in Washington and northern Idaho.
The reorganized space allows Bartell to more prominently display over-the-counter products and health and beauty aids. Center-store space for such merchandise was freed up by consolidating food and beverage items into a new Market section, says store manager Robyn Leong.
The store, first opened in 1954, also features a fountain where shoppers can select from a sampling of local ice cream, coffees, pastries and beers.
“The fountain is something that people have wanted for so, so long,” remarks Leong. Fountains were a prominent feature of Bartell stores for much of the 20th century Leong says, offering customers a break from shopping and a place to grab a sandwich, milk shake or cup of coffee. “For a long time it was Bartell’s and Woolworth’s that kept fountains going,” Leong says.
In bringing back the fountain, Bartell is appealing to the nostalgia of baby boomers while also affiliating itself with popular regional coffee roasters, ice cream makers and craft brewers.
“The ‘Bellevue Fountain’ offers in-store barista services with fresh-brewed coffee and espresso drinks from Seattle’s Caffe Vita; scooped servings of Bartell Drugs’ own Emerald & Spruce premium ice cream in partnership with local Snoqualmie Ice Cream; and the Bellevue introduction of Bartell’s popular Growler Station, with nine local craft beers on tap for take home, plus root beer, kombucha tea beverage and cold-brewed coffee,” the company notes.
The store’s walk-in CareClinic is staffed by board-certified physician assistants and nurse practitioners and is open seven days a week.
“In many cases, CareClinic costs less than a visit to your doctor’s office,” according to Bartell. “Most insurance is accepted, or you can choose to pay $75 per visit. Either way, you’ll receive quality Group Health care with the convenience of Bartell Drugs.” Patients are charged using a barcode slip that can be read at the checkout, allowing them to pay for their clinic visit and store purchases at the same time.
Each of the changes was made to make customers feel at home, Leong notes. “It’s always been about the customer. That’s what has kept us around for the past 125 years. People come to Bartell’s for the experience. It’s like walking into a friend’s house.”