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Downtown icon to retire, but landmark store remains

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An 85-year-old Rochester business owner has decided to retire, but his family is keeping his downtown landmark Eagle Drug store open on the corner of Second Street and First Avenue.

Many Rochester residents and international Mayo Clinic visitors are used to seeing Warren Williams' familiar glasses peeking over his pharmacy counter to greet them by name as they walk in the door of Eagle Drug.

"I've appreciated them all," says the soft-spoken Williams. "It has been kind of fun to have people from all over the world drop in every few months or every few years and say 'Hi.'"

While he officially retired at 6 p.m. Monday, the store will remain open for business. His three sons, Steve, John and Robert Williams, intend to keep the popular business open, selling its classic drug store mix of over-the-counter medications, canes, toys, candy, snacks, magazines, decorative plates, Minnesota trinkets and a lot more.

"We think the downtown shoppers will still come in for everyday things and hard-to-find stuff," said Steve Williams. "There's still a need for us here."

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The only big change is that the store will drop the word "Drug" from its name.

The family considered hiring a new pharmacist. However, the complex tangle of today's health care system made it seem daunting. So Eagle Drug sold its active pharmacy customer files to the Walgreens chain, which has two Rochester stores.

Eagle customers are getting letters about the change. But some who have learned about the change already, including downtown resident Barry Skolnick, have concerns there aren't other downtown pharmacies that offer convenient night and weekend hours.

"It's a terrible loss for downtown," Skolnick said.

Warren Williams, who worked briefly for Walgreens after he became a pharmacist in 1958, says he respects the national company and is confident they will do a good job for his customers.

Williams has long been a downtown fixture, starting when he bought Reeves Drug at 305 S. Broadway in 1969.

Then in 1975, Richard Hargesheimer walked into his store and said he was ready to sell Eagle Drug.

The Williams family moved the store to its current prominent corner spot in the former Odd Fellows building at 23 Second St. S.W. in April 1987. It replaced the Green Parrot eatery, which closed in 1986.

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