Rite Aid’s purchase of Freeland drug store finalized

The national drug store chain has been in the process of purchasing the longtime and locally owned South Whidbey pharmacy for months, and the acquisition wrapped up this month when operations formally changed hands. Wasting no time, the old Linds sign came down that very afternoon and a new Rite Aid sign went up.

“It was official as of Friday (Jan. 16)” confirmed Ron Lind, a former owner of the pharmacy.

The deal was limited to the pharmacy and certain parts of the retail element of the Freeland store, including health products, cosmetics and various other retail goods. A sale price was not disclosed.

The rest of Saratoga Enterprises, which now encompasses Linds Jewelry and Linds Coupeville Pharmacy, remain under local ownership, of which Lind and his wife Pam have the controlling shares.

The Coupeville location was available for purchase, but Lind said Rite Aid passed due to its smaller size.

According to Lind, about 20 employees — 90 percent of pharmacy employees — were retained by Rite Aid. Those who were not either decided to retire or found other positions, he said.

The prescription side of the Lind business was sold largely because of economic pressures facing independent pharmacists, namely mail-order houses and pharmaceutical insurance companies. They’ve made it increasingly difficult for small and privately owned pharmacists to compete.

It was for similar reasons that the Linds pharmacy in Langley closed in 2009, Lind said.

“We’ve already experienced this to certain degree,” said Lind, referring to the Langley store’s closure.

When the Freeland pharmacy went up for sale, four massive chains responded: Walgreens, 8,200 stores; CVS, 7,600 locations; Rite Aid with 4,600 stores; and Bartell Drugs, a state chain with about 60 locations throughout the Puget Sound area.

It’s unclear why Rite Aid was selected, but Lind said that as the partnership was established he found them to be fair and cooperative.

According to its website, Rite Aid employs roughly 89,000 associates. It’s publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol RAD, and is a Fortune 500 company.

Requests to interview the store’s new manager were declined, and a call to the corporation’s communications office was not returned by press time last week.

While the deal limits Linds from selling competing products, such as cosmetics and health products, Linds retail element is reopening in the adjacent commercial space that was previously occupied only by the jewelry store.