Secret Lover – Duane Reade

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Posted by Amy | Posted in Collective Bias, Food, Having It All | Posted on 19-12-2011

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FatGirl Says: Oh Duane, you really get me. You really get my needs, my wants, that little thing that will just make my day better. You’re there for me when I have the sniffles. You make me feel pretty. You have chocolate for every holiday known under the sun and you have chocolate just “because”. And it’s like you’re there like 24/7, always open and available. Le sigh.

Chocolate Covered Almonds at DReade makes the world better

Chocolate Covered Almonds at DReade makes the world better

I have a secret love affair with Duane Reade Drug Stores. This affair started for two reasons. Years ago, Chase Bank put an ATM machine in every Duane Reade in the City. If you’re a Chase customer, that pretty much means there’s a fee-free ATM about every 50 feet or so, either in a Duane Reade or in a Chase Bank. One of my biggest pet peeves in life that you have to pay to have access to your hard-earned cash. When Duane Reade and Chase teamed up, that meant I was seeing red about my green with much less frequency.

A Chase ATM on every block

A Chase ATM on every block

The second reason that I came to love Duane Reade is that I’m pathologically early for things. You see, I’ve spent far too much time in Japan and it has some lingering side effects like the inability to give an unambiguous no and being on time to the point of obsession and driving everyone in my life flippin’ nuts because I simple can’t be late so I’m always early. Since I don’t actually want to drive everyone in my life flippin’ nuts AND I’m pathologically early for things, I developed the coping mechanism of wandering Duane Reade endlessly. There are like 6 billion Duane Reades in NYC (OK, like 250+ stores but really, considering Manhattan is only 22.7 square miles, that’s like, oh help me out with the math here, 10 or so Duane Reades per square mile?), you can always find a Duane Reade to pop into to kill some time. I could hit a coffee shop to kill time, but then you’re sitting there staring at your coffee with nothing to do, so you need to go to Duane Reade anyway to get a Cosmo and take the Sex Quiz to bide the time. And we all know that there will be no popping into the Gap or some fancy pants boutique with my Crazy Inner FatGirl’s illogical fear of retail sales girls. It is impossible to think you’re too fat for hair gel. And besides, there’s ALWAYS something you need, Febreeze, tissues, chocolate, mascara, so while you’re trying not to drive people flippin’ nuts, get your errands done.

Hair Care at DReade

Never too fat for Hair Care Products

Duane Reade started a re-branding project in about 2005 or so, and it went way beyond developing a fancy new logo. They really began to shift what’s possible for a local drug store. When you think “drug store” you think, well, drugs. Yeah, you can get your drugs in the pharmacy and all the over-the-counter-make-me-feel-better-right-this-very-second stuff like Mucinex and Advil, as well as your hair care products, last minute cheesy gifts, a few cleaning supplies, all the little necessities and niceties of life. But Duane Reade really saw the opportunity to provide something more for their customers and the communities they’re in. Duane Reade now offers flu shots, select locations have “Doctor on Premises” where you can get immediate and affordable health care for minor complaints like colds and boo-boos with no appointments – a huge service in an era where health care is pricey and frustrating and actually kind of hard to come by in NYC with hospitals closing. The pharmacy will text message you when your prescription is ready to be picked up and they even offer language assistance, so that you can really be taken care of. You may have never been sick in a place where you don’t speak the language, but let me tell you, there is nothing more stressful and terrifying than trying to buy medicine in a foreign language. You don’t know if this package is going to cure your hemorrhoids or remove unwanted hair.

Then there is the LOOK Boutique.

Looking good at Look Boutique at DReade

Looking good at LOOK Boutique at DReade

Imagine walking into your local drug store and being able to sample the newest OPI nail color, or THE anti-aging face cream wonder that all the magazines are featuring. The LOOK Boutique goes beyond your everyday CoverGirl cosmetics and introduces you to beauty lines that are 100% vegan and natural, and I can’t even begin to ooo and ahh enough about the different lines they carry. But they’ve taken that even further. Most LOOK Boutiques are staffed by people who actually know what they’re talking about and will help you find something new and fun to try. Then they took this to the next level when the 40 Wall store opened. Right in the drug store, you can get your hair blown out, your nails done, sample over 40 different perfumes and they have a virtual make-over kiosk. When you’ve worked all day and you have a big date, pop in, spruce up and not drop a load of cash. Freakin Brilliant.

But the thing I want to really talk about is food. Naturally.

Redefining fast food at Duane Reade

Redefining fast food at Duane Reade

With this re-branding project, Duane Reade is altering the way you can shop for food and eat in NYC. If you don’t live in NYC, here’s a little known fact – supermarkets are few and far between. It is not possible to drive up to a mega supermarket, fill your cart with a months worth of food and head on home. Grocery stores in NYC are tiny, cramped and severely limited in the quality and quantity of goods they offer. There are entire neighborhoods that lack a grocery store of any sort. This means that you do a lot of your food shopping at the corner deli where quantity and quality is even more limited and you would cry over the prices, or you lug your groceries for miles on public transportation. Don’t even get me started on the lack of fruits and vegetables, organic food and basic healthy eating needs. Duane Reade already has a vast presence in NYC. They started bringing in quality pre-made food, like sandwiches and salads. Then they started to expand into basic grocery needs. This addition alone can literally alter the health and well-being of entire communities.

My business partner at Ginger Snap Works and I were invited to attend the opening of a new Duane Reade on Broadway and 52nd Street by Collective Bias, a social media and blogger engagement agency, who is working on some social media projects with Duane Reade.

Robin Wallace & Amy Nowacoski of Ginger Snap Works at Duane Reade

Ginger Snap Works at Duane Reade

They kicked off the press event by donating $350,000 to Susan G. Komen. I was kind of hoping to see one of those giant checks like they give to lottery winners. I guess that’s a little tacky these days huh? And well, when you’re talking about over a quarter million dollars, no need to be obvious about it.

Duane Reade and Susan G. Komen

Duane Reade plays Santa for Susan G. Komen with $350,000 donation

And Antoine was there with his jet pack of coffee, so all around, it was an excellent morning.

Go Go Coffee Jet Pack

Go Go Coffee Jet Pack

I could gush for a while about how pretty and spacious the store is, but I really want to talk about the food. The entire upstairs is food and there is a grocery section down stairs. And bestill my little FitGirl heart – there’s some good healthy stuff here. I mean, just check out the yogurt section.


A Billion yogurts at Duane Reade

A billion yogurts at Duane Reade

What drug store do you know that has a fresh produce section?

Fresh Produce at Duane Reade

Fresh Produce at Duane Reade... next to light bulbs?

OK, the fresh produce is next to the light bulbs and dog food and that’s a bit freaky but I can work with it. And will you look at that, there’s fresh fruit within 5 steps of the entrance. Bananas, apples and oranges are actually the first product you encounter when you walk in the store.

Fresh Fruit First Thing at Duane Reade

Ninja Bananas prepare to attack at Duane Reade

Now hold on to your Points Tracker, because this is what is really amazing. At the B’Way store, yeah yeah, sure you can get cleaning supplies, magazines, cold medicine, and your usual drinks and snacks and treats. And OK, they upped the game with fresh food and bananas and even beer…

Beer in the drug store?

Beer in the drug store?

The whole first floor is a food market. And I’m not talking day old muffins and Cheetos.

A machine that dispenses slushy drinks;

On-Demand Brain Freeze at Duane Reade

On-Demand Brain Freeze

Self-serve Frozen Yogurt with toppings (peach is to die for!);

Self Serve Frozen Yogurt at Duane Reade

Self Serve Frozen Yogurt at Duane Reade

A sushi bar. Yes, a real live human being stands right there and makes sushi for you;

Sushi in a drug store?

Sushi Fixins at the Sushi Bar

There’s a fridge case with about oh 8 dozen different kinds of salads and sandwiches;

Sammies, salads and quick healthy lunches

Sammies, salads and quick healthy lunches

A fresh juice bar;

Fresh squeezed Juice at Duane Reade

Fresh squeezed Juice at Duane Reade

Then you circle around and find gourmet breads and holy freaking cow Fat Witch Brownies next to a machine that dispenses a variety of coffees and…

Fat Girl and Fat Witch

Fat Girl and Fat Witch = Heaven

wait for it…

AN OATMEAL VENDING MACHINE.

A machine that gives you oatmeal. Holy cow.

A machine that gives you oatmeal. Holy cow Duane Reade!

Yes, that’s right, you put a cup under the spout and press a button and out comes oatmeal. OK, fine, it’s instant oatmeal and I’m kind of an oatmeal snob but I had a cup. It was $1.99, a wee hint of sweetness, not mushy or soupy at all like instant oatmeal and way way less sweet, and to be honest, it’s better than Starbucks oatmeal.

I’m sure I’m missing a dozen things that are new and exciting in this store as I was a wee bit distracted by the food options. This ain’t a Fat Girl blog for no reason after all!. OH! And my inner Fit Girl will break a proverbial knee cap if I don’t plug the single best thing in Duane Reade…

And FitGirl says: You’re out and about in the City, dashing to a yoga class or coming home after a run, you must re-fuel and get a healthy snack in you! Skip the candy aisle and those protein bars that have more sugar than soda, and pick up this DELICOUS “Delish Chick Pea Salad”. It’s about a half-cup portion and NOT dripping in oily dressing – The perfect protein pick-me-up!

Perfect Protein Pick-me-up

Perfect Protein Pick-me-up

My two general complaints about Duane Reade –  I’ve never found the staff to be overly friendly. They’re helpful, no doubt,  if you ask for help. I had some interactions with a store manager once who simply kicked butt. He couldn’t solve my problem but was awesome anyway. It’s not like the staff is rude or aything and I get it blows working check out in retail sometimes, but the staff have never given me the warm fuzzies either. My second complaint is that Duane Reade can be pricy. Not over priced, but they are generally at the higher end of price point fluctuations. They do have really great sales tho if you keep your eye out on their bulletin and sign up for Flex Reward card. If you must have your favorite shampoo right this second and it’s not on sale that week, expect to pay in the higher price range for it.

I’ve been a customer and a fan of Duane Reade for years. As I’m growing and building this healthy life style for myself, it’s really phenomenal that a company and a brand I am already a fan of is growing in that same direction with me. I know that I can be on the go in the City and that Duane Reade makes it really easy for me to support the decisions that are important to me around my well being.

Please Note: After the tour I received a gift card as a thank you. I’m participating in this Duane Reade Campaign #DReade as a member of Collective Bias. #CBias. No other compensation was received. Views expressed are always 100% my own.

Comments (4)

WOW! It looks like they’ve really tried to think of everything you could dash in there for.

I will say, though, that the snacks – even though healthy options – could end up sabotaging you if you’re in there with time to kill – and your main purpose is just killing time – but there’s frozen yogurt available that’s yummy, and you’ve got time for that, right? You end up eating things you didn’t plan on eating, which isn’t good, even if they’re healthy. So make sure if you’re snacking, it’s a planned snack – and KNOW what you’re getting before you walk in with commitment to it. Browsing for a snack makes a good decision harder to come by. Maybe you could consider getting a puzzle app like ken_ken or sudoku for your phone. I keep a couple hard sudokus to work on tucked in my bag.

[...] I think Amy had it right when she said Duane Reade is her secret lover! Robin Wallace & Amy Nowacoski at Duane Reade's grand opening of the 52nd & Broadway [...]

love, love, Duane Reade..i got at least twice a week.. i work near the one on 52nd and my coworker and i walked by the other day and was totally surprised to see the frozen yogurt station.. i didn’t see the fresh squeeze juice.. NICE… oatmeal machine, how cool.. Duane Reade has come along way for the better :-)

[...] un-ending love for Duane Reade is pretty legendary. Lil Sis would undoubtedly agree with me. You really can’t be a NYer and NOT shop Duane [...]

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