Yesterday afternoon The Observer got wind of a grandiose affair to take place at the The Trump Building at 40 Wall Street the following morning. The grand opening of Duane Reade there is the company’s newest effort to tailor a pharmacy to its neighborhood.
The official Facebook event boasted 41 Duane Reade diehards planning to attend the opening. Curiosity got the better of us, and we thought we’d pop down to 40 Wall to see what the fuss was about.
Fresh out of the subway, The Observer was greeted (or rather, attacked) by a zealous young man in a tuxedo handing out store coupons and ushering people to the event.
“This is the greatest pharmacy in the world!” the elaborately-dressed escort bragged with a smile. “It is going to change everything.”
What exactly needs to be changed in the market of convenience and pharmaceutical sales is uncertain, but whatever the direction of the industry, Duane Reade is certainly making moves. The new store touts an impressive array of innovative features from in-house hair and skin analyses to an on-site doctor and sushi chef to a soda machine that dispenses all 130 varieties of Coca-Cola beverages.
Closer to the entrance of 40 Wall Street, The Observer encountered another Duane Reade street promoter, this one doling out cups of complementary coffee from a hose connected to his backpack.
Intrigued, we accepted a cup. Coffee in hand, we entered the historic building now home to the “greatest pharmacy in the world.”
The store was a hive of activity, with half a dozen morning shoppers mulling around, a squad of security guards patrolling the aisles, a small army of employees, and a dozen or so Duane Reade “higher-ups” overseeing the whole affair.
We were immediately welcomed by a hologram of a middle-aged Caucasian woman projected from a machine “custom-designed” for Duane Reade by Tensator. While the hologram perpetually gloated about the merits of the store, The Observer wandered around a bit.
Much to our surprise, the morning customers appeared lost and overwhelmed, but perhaps more disconcerting was that the confusion extended to the staff as well. Outside of the hologram, the rest of the store’s new employees appeared to know very little about the building and its inventory. Although one employee credited his inability to find the men’s shaving cream to the amount of “red wine” he had consumed the evening before.
Once New Yorkers’ local pharmacy, the atmosphere of Duane Reade’s new “flagship” store was inordinately professional and aloof. When approached by The Observer, the store’s manager, Tom Cashman, offered no comment on the “grand” opening. Ironically, the friendliest guy we met was not in the store at all, rather on the street dispensing coffee out of a backpack…but his excessive excitement can probably be linked to the copious amount of complimentary caffeine he toted on his back.
Between the tuxedo’ed usher, the hologram soccer mom, and the Japanese sushi chef dishing out overpriced pharmacy sushi, Wall Street’s new Duane Reade seems to be going through an identity crisis. Is it possible that consumers really want to turn to their pharmacy to whet their appetite for sushi and manicures? The answer remains unclear for now.
Perhaps Duane Reade already hit their mark in one regard, the new pharmacy does fit its neighborhood with the store atmosphere being as cold and impersonal as the Wall Street businessmen stalking by the entrance on their way to work.
Needless to say, we’d soon had enough of the fanfare and headed out. To our relief the chipper coffee boy was still outside and we gratefully accepted another cup of hose-coffee for the ride back.