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Elfers-Lyon Rexall in Prosser, Washington

Rexall was the name of a chain of North American drugstores, as well as the name of their store-branded products. Today it is the name of over-the-counter drugs and drugstores in Canada and health supplements in the United States.



In 1902 Louis K. Liggett persuaded 40 independent drug stores to invest $4,000 in a retailers' cooperative called United Drug Stores, which sold products under the Rexall name. After World War I, the cooperative established a franchise arrangement whereby independently owned retail outlets adopted the Rexall trade name and sold Rexall products. The company was based in Boston, in an area now occupied by Northeastern University.


Rexall Drug Store at Hills, Minnesota, 2006

Justin Whitlock Dart, formerly of the Walgreen's drugstore chain, took control of Boston-based United Drug Company in 1943. The chain operated under the Liggett, Owl, Sonta, and Rexall brands, which Dart rebranded under the Rexall name.

Rexall gained national exposure through its sponsorship of two famous classic American radio programs of the 1940s and 1950s: Amos and Andy and The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show. Both shows were often opened by an advertisement from an actor (Griff Barnett) portraying "your Rexall family druggist", and included the catch phrase "Good health to all from Rexall." They also sponsored the Jimmy Durante Show and there are references by character Mr. Peavey in some of the Great Gildersleeve radio shows.

In 1946, United-Rexall Drug Inc. purchased the Renfro chain in Texas. It also launched the Owl Superstores chain. In 1958, the Rexall Drug Company was the largest U.S. drug store franchise, with 11,158 stores (for comparison, there are fewer than 12,000 McDonald's restaurants in the U.S. today). Time Magazine noted that 2/3 of its stores were in areas where 1/3 of the population lived. However, this comprised more than 20% of all drug stores in the United States.

Dart sold his stake in Rexall in 1978. Dart had acquired stakes in West Bend, Duracell, Hobart, Tupperware, Ralph Wilson Plastics, and Archer Glass, which were collectively known as Dart Industries.


By the late 1950s, Rexall's business model of unitary franchised stores, with each store owned independently by the local pharmacist, was already coming under attack by the discount chains, such as Thrifty Drug and Eckerd. These well-financed corporate entities were able to drive down costs by means of block purchasing, and were focused on growth. By 1977, the value of the Rexall business had deteriorated to the point that it was sold to private investors for $16 million. The investors divested the company owned stores, though existing franchise retailers were able to keep the Rexall name. However, these tended to be weaker stores, and very few kept the name as time progressed. The company did continue to distribute vitamins, health foods, and plastic items.


Sundown, a maker of sunscreens, acquired the Rexall trademark in 1985 and continued to produce nutritional supplements and remedies under the new name Rexall-Sundown, with no relationship to the remaining chain of Rexall drugstores, nor to the Canadian maker of medicines and sundries.

Numico split up the Rexall divisions and divested them in 2003, selling the name Rexall-Sundown to NBTY, a US vitamin company, and the Unicity Network division to Activated Holdings, a privately held company.


Sports venues

Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, is the home of both the Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League, and the Edmonton Rush of the National Lacrosse League. The Katz Group Canada, which sells Rexall products in Canada, purchased the naming rights to the arena. Daryl Katz, head of the Katz Group of Companies, is the owner of the Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club. The Rexall Centre tennis courts are in Toronto, Ontario. Rexall is also the title sponsor of the Rexall Edmonton Indy IndyCar race at Edmonton City Centre Airport.


  • The Rexall Story: A History of Genius and Neglect by Mickey C. Smith ISBN 0-7890-2472-1

External links

The United Drug Company records (M10) are available at Northeastern University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections Department.

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