Walgreens to open in April

Ladies and gentlemen, in one corner is Osco Drug, with 800 freestanding stores and 2,000 pharmacies nationwide. In the other corner is Walgreens drug store, which has 3,600 stores across the country. The fight will begin in April when a new Walgreens is scheduled to open its doors in Columbia.

The new Walgreens, at the intersection of Providence Road and Broadway, has been under construction since 1999. It shares a parking lot with Osco Drug, 111 S. Providence Road.

Steve Mitchell, manager of the Jefferson City Walgreens, justified the company's choice for a new Walgreens location.

"The city is growing, and it needs a Walgreens," Mitchell said. "The place is the best site available because there are a lot of cars going by and many people walking around there. There is nothing to do with Osco."

Both stores sell basically the same sort of items, from convenience food to cosmetics and pharmacy products, and the companies compete all over the country. Walgreens will offer a drive-through service.

Walgreens will be open 24 hours a day, and the 15,000-square-foot store will create about 50 new jobs. Walgreens spokesman Michael Polzin said the main difference between the two stores is in "execution."

"We provide better customer services," Polzin said. "Our product stock is better than someone else. It is possible for us to check out the store quickly and offer a product when a customer asks for it."

Osco Drug spokeswoman Karen Ramos said she does not see this competition in Columbia as a war.

"Competition exists in every market," Ramos said. "We have been for a long time and will continue doing the best job we can to serve people. Customers have their own choices and only they will be able to say where they are best treated, not us."

Some customers said they like the idea of having Walgreens close to Osco. Tammy Whitaker of Columbia has shopped at Osco for 10 years, and she said she will have a chance to check prices before her buys.

"I just do not know how one of them is going to stay alive in this area," Whitaker said.

Some customers said they were glad the Walgreens will be open 24 hours because it would be easier for them to get medicine in the middle of the night.

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