State

McHenry and Briggsmore cornering market on drugstores

It was among Modesto's premier restaurants for two decades, but the former Mallard's Restaurant is about to be demolished.

In its place, a CVS drugstore will be built.

Yes, another drugstore is coming to the corner of McHenry and Briggsmore avenues.

There's already a Rite Aid being built across the street, and Longs Drugs is just a stone's throw away.

The Longs chain, however, was bought by CVS last year. So it's expected that the old Longs store at 1625 McHenry Ave. will close and its staff will move into the CVS being built at 1700 McHenry.

Mallard's demolition is scheduled to begin this week.

The insides were stripped over the past couple of weeks, and all furnishings and equipment are gone. Duck-shaped decorations were left scattered across the floor, but little else.

"It won't take very long to knock it down," said Jeff Solari, project manager for Modesto Sand and Gravel Inc., which will demolish the 9,754-square-foot building. "Everything that can be recycled will be recycled. We try to take as little to the landfill as possible."

No matter where Mallard's bits and pieces end up, it's a sad finish to a once popular restaurant and bar.

Modesto entrepreneur Dan Costa built the upscale eatery in 1986, and it was an instant hit. Costa sold it in 2005, and the restaurant went belly up just two years later. It's been closed for 19 months, which has hurt the surrounding Modesto Village businesses.

"The empty parking lot and building have been detrimental to the shopping center," said

Chuck Arnold, who owns the adjacent Phillips Lighting and Home store. He wanted another restaurant to fill that anchor spot. "That's a good use for the corner because it draws in people from beyond this neighborhood."

A prospective franchisee with T.G.I. Friday's restaurant chain had considered opening an outlet there, but the deal fell through last year. CVS also was interested in the McHenry Village parcel, but that project was put on hold when the company bought the Longs chain.

However, CVS's plans to build on the site quietly moved ahead this spring.

CVS was issued a city permit last week to build the 13,013-square-foot store, which is expected to cost $1.71 million. The demolition will cost an additional $25,000, according to building permit estimates.

The new CVS will face McHenry, with drive-through pharmacy service on the south side of the building. Simac Construction Inc. of Escondido will be the general contractor.

Still two vacant buildings

Directly across the street, the new Rite Aid at 1707 McHenry Ave. also will have a drive-through. That 17,340-square-foot drugstore is expected to open late this fall. The Rite Aid at 2401 N. McHenry Ave. then will close and its staff will transfer to the new store.

Not everyone thinks switching around drugstores is logical.

"It seems silly to me," said Maria Apodaca, manager of Village Baking Co. in McHenry Village. "We're replacing two vacant buildings with two more vacant buildings."

The 60,000-square-foot Rite Aid farther north on McHenry is for sale. The real estate agent marketing that 40-year-old structure, which used to house a Payless store, says a sale is pending but wouldn't reveal the potential buyer.

What will happen to the Longs building at 1625 McHenry isn't known. That 40,000-square-foot space was constructed in 1964 and has been leased to Longs since. When that lease expires hasn't been made public.

The building's owner couldn't be reached for comment by The Bee last week.

Longs employs 41 people at the McHenry store. How many people will be needed for the new, much smaller CVS store has not been disclosed.

Last year, when CVS announced it was building a store at 3100 Geer Road in Turlock, the company said that 13,000-square-foot store would hire about 25 people. The Turlock building is scheduled to open in November; hiring hasn't started.

"We are committed to providing high-quality, convenient and affordable pharmacy services in the market," said CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis, who works at the corporate office in Rhode Island. "We will continue to look for opportunities to open stores in our new Northern California markets, and we look forward to serving our new customers."

Building drugstores seems to be all the rage in Stanislaus County.

A Walgreen Drug Store is nearing completion at 3019 Floyd Ave. in northeast Modesto. That 14,820-square-foot store with drive-through service is expected to open this summer and create about 25 jobs.

Pharmacy the moneymaker

Prescriptions seemed to be holding up the drugstore business last month, with the sector's two giants reporting declines in sales of other merchandise but brisk sales back in pharmacy.

At Walgreen Co., June same-store sales -- those at outlets open at least a year -- rose 3.4 percent. Nonpharmacy sales fell 0.9 percent on a comparable basis, but pharmacy sales jumped 5.8 percent. Total sales rose 9 percent to $5.24 billion, with pharmacy accounting for a little more than two-thirds of that amount.

At Rite Aid Corp., June same-store sales declined 0.6 percent with the front end down 4.5 percent and pharmacy rising 1.4 percent. Total sales for the month decreased 2.5 percent to $1.97 billion. Pharmacy sales accounted for about 68 percent of the company's total revenue in the month.

McClatchy Newspapers contributed to this report.

Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at jsbranti@modbee.com or 578-2196.

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