Duane Reade: The Times Square of NY Stores

Recently, I went shopping at Duane Reade, the New York convenience store, and it made me think of Times Square.

If you grew up in New York, or if you’ve been here more than 20 years, or if you’ve seen any Scorcese movie made in the 1970’s, then you remember when Times Square was seedy.  You remember – maybe even with fondness –  the way there were creepy men hanging around the peep shows, how Robin Byrd was headlining at Show World.  You remember that certain combination of grime, sleaze and glitz that was Times Square.

Now, Times Square isn’t gritty, it’s glitzy and glamorous.  Now there are brand name stores, like the new American Eagle Outfitters, and Sephora, and the flagship Toys R Us complete with indoor ferris wheel.

It’s a bit disconcerting.

And that is kind of like Duane Reade.  For decades, Duane Reade, a NYC chain of pharmacy/snack/drug store/convenience stores, was famously – oh, how can I put this kindly – seedy.  Oh, we all shopped there.  Duane Reade had everything. Need Shampoo?  You’ve got it.  Need a mop? Check.  Need bandaids, aspirin, Leggs pantyhose in a plastic egg, pork rinds, Spam in a can? Duane Reade was the place to go.

But it was also famous for being maybe not the most service oriented place.  Maybe not the cleanest. Definitely not glam.

My how times have changed.

Fancy Schmancy Fragrance at DR on 72nd and Broadway

And while there’s a part of me that thinks it’s a bit sad – the Walgreens-i-fication of the chain has taken out the New Yorkiness of the place (Walgreen recently bought all 257 DR stores for $1.1 billion)  – it didn’t stop me from heading there to do a little bit of last minute stocking stuffer (well, you can’t stuff a Menorah) shopping at my newly glammed up DR.

The first thing you notice when you walk in, is the case of fresh donuts. Now, the old DR didn’t have fresh anything.  So this is a surprise. Next, is all the private label stuff: Delish is the brand. Then, you see that the linoleum floors are not blackened from years of neglect.  The place kind of sparkles. It’s sleek.

But I’m not here to gawk, I’m here to shop.  So upstairs I go.  The store is heavily staffed.  People actually smile and greet you, offer you help.  It’s like an alternate DR universe.  And the stuff they have!  I see a display of Demeter fragrances, Klorane products, a hip line of cosmetics called Pop.  I choose some sparkly nail polish and even more sparkly lip gloss for my teen niece. One down.

There’s a brow bar.  A sign announcing a doctor on site. I grab some needed tin foil and some plastic hangars.

For my own daughter, I peruse the fan mags. She loves J-14.  That’s going to be good for the plane ride for our vacation. I

throw it into my cart. I feel guilty that we’re leaving  the dog behind, and since he’s adopted, I figure he’s not Jewish, so I buy him a Santa Dog Toy. Gift cards are always good.  Two itunes cards for my two kids, and one for the college nephew.  Some sunscreen for the trip. Done.

On my way out, I buy some soft chocolate chip cookies to bring to pick up. There’s sushi – but frankly, that scares me.  There’s an artisinal beer bar (no, I’m not kidding), there is fresh looking fresh produce – nothing withered – I checked. They even have a Facebook Page and a Twitter account.

It’s kind of freaking me out. Where is the skeevy looking box of snacks?  Whence the surly clerk?

I’m cheered by the fact that even though they seem to have gotten everything right, I still find one thing wrong – we’re on the Upper West Side of Manattan – Jew territory – and yet there is not even one Hannukah anything. No decorations.  No plastic dreidels. Nothing.

It’s not grit or New York attitude – but it will have to do.

This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study forCollectiveBias. #CBias The money spent and the opinions given are my own. #duanereade

You can see more photos from my trip – and check out the glam for yourself by clicking here.


  1. Soliloquy says

    I LOVE Duane Read and it’s new facelift. I also love that there’s one on every corner in the city. It quells my “how could I move to NY if there’s no Target??” angst.

    Not that Target is so easily replaced, but hello! DR now carries Aveda!

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