Latest News – September 26

Sayer’s to Safeway: A Sign of  The Times?

“It was a hard decision,” said Nancy Longwell, owner of the Sayer & McKee Drugs store, a Leadville mainstay on historic Harrison Ave. for nearly 70 years.  “I hate to see Sayer McKee go, but you gotta do, what you gotta do,” she added.  

While the conversation between Sayer & McKee Drugs and Safeway has been going on for almost a year, according to Longwell, the sale has gone through: Sayer’s – as it’s known by locals – has sold the pharmacy business to the Safeway Corporation. The pharmacy transition should happen mid-November, the 14th to be precise, but that also depends on construction, which seems to be moving right along.

Sayer & McKee Drugs store horoscope: Going Out of Business.

So what about the store? Sayer & McKee will be a thing of the past by the end of November. Owner Nancy Longwell, confirmed the rumor that has been floating around town for weeks, that the pharmacy was sold and that the retail space at 615 Harrison Ave. will be closed completely by the end of November.

“We’ll be having a big sale,” said Longwell.

And while big sales are nothing new for Sayer’s, business wasn’t brisk enough to keep the doors open.

“Sales bottomed out in the front half of the store,” explained Longwell. “And it was getting harder to compete with those $4 and $10 prescriptions offered by the big chain stores.”

For those around long enough to remember, Sayer & McKee Drugs was been a mainstay on Harrison Avenue since the 1940s. And like many downtown businesses that have been around a while, the drug store had more than one location. Here is some Sayer & McKee Drugs store back story via a Facebook Page dedicated to folks who used to live in Leadville. Leadville Today reached out to see if they had old pictures and memories.

A fire consumed Sayer’s first location: present day site of Pueblo Bank & Trust.

Sayers was originally (I think) in the location you see in this picture–just north of 6th Street on the East side of Harrison Avenue; one of the original owners/founders was Bill McKee. At the time there were, I think, 3 drugstores in Leadville–Taylor Drug, which was also destroyed in this fire, was previously housed in the Vendome (Tabor Grand) Hotel. Davis Drug was on the corner of 6th and Harrison on the West side of Harrison, where Sears catalog store was later, then the video store. One of the people involved in the Davis Drug was Joe McKee, Bill’s brother, and also Ralph Withey who was later for many years the pharmacist at Sayers after The Davis Drug store closed. The location currently occupied by Sayers was the Safeway store, which had moved to their new location on Poplar shortly before this fire took place. – Karen G. via Facebook.

So, if locals want to find any solace in the acquisition, looks like the Sayer’s-Safeway connection goes back a few years. Still, Leadville’s Harrison Avenue will surely miss one of its Grand Madaams.

Also, before the “downtown-looks-like-a-boarded-up-ghost-town” conversation re-ignites, be reminded of the following new businesses and be sure to support them: The Mule Kick, Showdown Bistro, Aspen Traders, High & Tight Barber, and B&B Shipping, not to mention all the mainstay businesses which have been riding out the tough economy; they could use your continued support as well.

“It’s hard for independents to make it, it’s hard to compete with the big chains,” concluded Longwell. And for those worried about whether Sayer’s employees will still have a job, rest assured that the pharmacy employees – four full time and one part time, including Longwell herself – will have jobs if they want them at the new pharmacy. “Come see us at Safeway,” said a somber Longwell.

Come see us at Safeway: left to right pharmacy employees: “Spot” DeFabbo, Nancy Longwell, and Melissa Kovalaske

The Safeway Side of the story

“Safeway PR person to aisle 3 for confirmation. Media Relations Manager to checkout three, please.”

While several calls from Leadville Today to Safeway’s Corporate Public Relations Department have not been returned by people in-the-know, the above Sayer-Safeway change of hands dates and facts match up with what local management hesitantly confirmed and cashiers and construction workers gladly shared.

The new Safeway Pharmacy construction is underway.

Yes, Safeway bought the Sayer’s pharmacy and will open mid-November.

Self Service Checkout . . .no waiting! Are you qualified for the job?

Other updates included things most locals have figured out by now: that the pharmacy remodel prompted the appearance of two self-checkout lanes, and that the “temporary” racks will be around until the end of November – Happy Thanksgiving, Safeway shoppers!

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