Remember the Rexall Drug Stores? Nostalgic Tales

Rexall Drug Stores, a name once synonymous with American healthcare and community life, has a rich and fascinating history. From its humble beginnings in Fort Worth, Texas, to becoming a household name across the United States, Rexall’s story is one of innovation, expansion, and cultural significance.

In this comprehensive blog post, we’ll explore the journey of Rexall Drug Stores, delving into its origins, expansion, cultural impact, and eventual decline. Whether you’re a history buff, a business enthusiast, or simply nostalgic for the days of soda fountains and local drugstores, this post promises to offer valuable insights and engaging storytelling.

The Birth of Rexall: Renfro Drug Company

It all started in Fort Worth, Texas, when Elza Tillman Renfro, the son of a pharmacist, opened the Renfro Drug Company in the early 1900s. Situated in the Knights of Pythias building at 3rd and Main Streets, Renfro’s vision was more than just a pharmacy; it was to create a community hub that catered to various needs. With four employees and a large storeroom, Renfro embarked on a journey that would lay the foundation for a nationwide phenomenon.

Expansion and Innovation

Renfro’s business acumen and innovative approach led to the gradual expansion of his chain of drug stores throughout the greater Fort Worth area. By the mid-20th century, the chain boasted twenty-five stores, four hundred employees, and a large warehouse.

Store No. 12, known for its lavish 65-foot long fountain, epitomized the grandeur and ambition of the Renfro Drug Company. In 1946, this burgeoning empire merged with United-Rexall, marking a new chapter in the history of American drugstores.

The Rise

Rexall, a name derived from the common Rx abbreviation for prescriptions, became a beacon in the American drugstore industry. The federation of United Drug Stores, which started in 1903, licensed the Rexall brand to an astonishing 12,000 drug stores across the United States from 1920 to 1977. This expansion wasn’t just about numbers; it was a testament to the brand’s commitment to quality, accessibility, and community service.

Innovations and Services

Rexall was not just a place to get prescriptions filled. It offered a range of products and services that catered to the everyday needs of Americans. From soda fountains to tobacco products, and from make-up to medicines, Rexall stores were a one-stop-shop for many. Their innovative approach to retail, combined with a deep understanding of customer needs, made them a household name and a staple in many communities.

Similarly, the evolution of hospitality in Dallas, reflecting a blend of luxury and convenience, mirrors the transformative journey of these iconic stores.

The Cultural Impact

Rexall Drug Stores played a significant role in the social and cultural fabric of American life. The soda fountains in many Rexall stores, for instance, became popular social gathering spots. These spaces were more than just places to enjoy a soda; they were integral to community life, serving as venues for social interaction and relaxation.

A Symbol of the Era

Rexall’s impact extended beyond its products and services. The stores themselves, with their distinctive architecture and signage, became symbols of the era. They represented a time of post-war prosperity and the burgeoning American middle class. Rexall stores were not just commercial establishments; they were landmarks in their communities, evoking a sense of nostalgia and Americana.

Marketing and Branding Strategies of Rexall

Rexall’s rise to prominence was not just due to its expansive network of stores, but also its innovative marketing strategies. The company understood the power of advertising and leveraged it to build a brand that was trusted and recognized across the nation. From catchy radio jingles to memorable print ads, Rexall’s marketing efforts played a crucial role in embedding the brand in the American consciousness.

Building a Trusted Brand

Trust was at the core of Rexall’s branding strategy. They positioned themselves as a reliable source for health and wellness products, which resonated with consumers. This trust was further bolstered by the quality of their products and the expertise of the pharmacists in their stores. Rexall became synonymous with reliability, a key factor in their widespread success.

Rexall’s Role in Healthcare

Rexall was more than just a retail success; it played a pioneering role in the field of pharmacy. The brand was at the forefront of introducing standardized practices and quality control in the pharmaceutical industry. This not only ensured the safety and efficacy of the medications sold but also elevated the profession of pharmacy itself.

Community Health Advocates

Rexall stores were often the first point of contact for health-related issues in many communities. Pharmacists at Rexall were not just dispensers of medication; they were advisors, educators, and advocates for community health. This role further entrenched Rexall as an integral part of American healthcare during its heyday.

The Decline

The decline of Rexall Drug Stores can be attributed to several factors, chief among them being changes in the retail landscape. The rise of big-box retailers and chain pharmacies presented stiff competition that Rexall struggled to keep up with. These new players often offered lower prices and larger selections, drawing customers away from traditional drugstores like Rexall.

Internal Challenges

Internal challenges also played a role in Rexall’s decline. As the company expanded, maintaining the quality and consistency across thousands of stores became increasingly difficult. Additionally, strategic missteps and a failure to adapt to changing market dynamics contributed to the gradual erosion of the brand’s dominance.

The Legacy

Even though Rexall Drug Stores are no longer the giants they once were, they hold a special place in American nostalgia. For many, Rexall evokes memories of a simpler time, of community gatherings at the local drugstore, and the personal touch that characterized shopping experiences of the past.

Influencing Modern Pharmacy

Rexall Drug Stores - modern medicine

The legacy of Rexall Drug Stores extends beyond nostalgia. The brand’s commitment to quality, customer service, and community health left an indelible mark on the pharmacy industry. Modern drugstores, in many ways, build upon the foundations laid by Rexall, from the emphasis on customer service to the role of pharmacists as healthcare advisors.


Were Rexall Drug Stores franchised or corporately owned?

Rexall Drug Stores operated primarily as a franchise model, allowing individual store owners to license the Rexall name and benefit from its branding and product lines.

Did Rexall have any unique products that were popular?

Yes, Rexall was known for several signature products, including the “93” hair tonic and a range of over-the-counter medications that were exclusive to their stores.

How did the Great Depression affect Rexall?

Like many businesses, Rexall faced challenges during the Great Depression but managed to survive, partly due to its franchising model and the essential nature of pharmaceutical products.

Was there a specific reason for the decline of soda fountains in Rexall stores?

The decline of soda fountains was due to changing social habits, increased competition from fast-food outlets, and a shift in retail focus towards more profitable pharmaceutical sales.

Did Rexall contribute to any major medical or pharmaceutical advancements?

While Rexall was more focused on retail and distribution, its standardized practices influenced the broader pharmaceutical industry, particularly in terms of quality control and customer service.

Final Words

Rexall Drug Stores, a once-dominant name in American healthcare and retail, leaves behind a legacy of innovation, community service, and a nostalgic imprint on the American way of life. Its story is a fascinating journey through the highs and lows of a brand that once defined an era.