BIZNOTE: Bartell Drugs’ White Center employees tell customers store is closing

Three years after the national chain Rite Aid acquired Seattle-founded regional chain Bartell Drugs, it’s closing some Bartell stores. And employees of the White Center Bartell store (9600 15th SW) are telling customers theirs will soon be among them. We’ve heard from multiple readers who say they’ve been told in recent days that the store will close at the end of the month, and a visit to the store reveals many items on sale at deep discounts. We have inquired with both Rite Aid and Bartell corporate spokespeople via email and phone, but have yet to receive a reply or acknowledgment either confirming or denying. As we reported on partner site White Center Now, the White Center store’s building changed ownership a year and a half ago, purchased for $5.1 million by an LLC associated with a California electrical contractor (we have an inquiry out to the owner as well). King County permit records show nothing on file for the sizable site. When the 4th Avenue Bartell store in downtown Seattle closed in July, The Seattle Times reported that was the fifth Bartell closure in less than a year; since then, one more has been announced. All this is unfolding against a backdrop of financial challenges for parent company Rite Aid.

65 Replies to "BIZNOTE: Bartell Drugs' White Center employees tell customers store is closing"

  • Alki resident September 6, 2023 (9:28 pm)

    Bartells was such a great store forever. Rite Aid for some reason has decided to kill this store . Very sad 

    • Helen. September 7, 2023 (1:56 pm)

      Totally agree about the negative impact of Bartell’s to Rite Aide.  I have shopped the one in Burien for years and loved it, but it almost immediately went down hill after it was sold to Rite Aide.  Poorly stocked shelves.  Few clerks, etc.

      • TD September 7, 2023 (9:15 pm)

        Omg the one burien was a nightmare last time i went. I made the mistake of needing to use their bathroom someone had left needles and hurled all over it 

        • Kc September 8, 2023 (7:53 pm)

          Unfortunately I learned the reason for the many recent empty shelves are due to the fact that the Burien Rite Aid is closing at the end of this month:(they have been my go to for a very long time and I am sad to see how it went downhill and was not taken care of recently, and now will be gone.  The  shopping area on 148th has gotten so sketchy – especially at night. Just doesn’t seem like Burien cares about it and is just letting things continue to get worse there.  Sad that Rite Aid is closing there.  

        • Kc September 8, 2023 (7:57 pm)

          Sadly so many stores don’t have security that keeps things safe and/or the ongoing stealing that happens as well.  No action is being taken anymore in most places and staff should definitely not have to try to manage these things.  It’s sad.

  • Perry September 6, 2023 (10:29 pm)

    I’m an employee there and the manager told us what we all knew…It’s due to shrinkage which means theft. So many homeless just come in and take what they want without paying. They know the police won’t come. They  tell their friends and it just spirals  We’re just another store that gives out free stuff in Seattle  

    • K September 7, 2023 (12:44 pm)

      Your manager should have told you that Rite Aid is struggling financially and closing stores all over, not just ones with high shrink.  Starting with the stores that are close to other Rite Aids makes sense.  

    • Sara September 14, 2023 (5:49 pm)

      Rite Aid is filing for bankruptcy due to opioid lawsuits. They’re closing hundreds and hundreds of stores all over the place. 

  • datamuse September 6, 2023 (10:34 pm)

    I’m so bummed—this is my go to for prescriptions and a number of other things I have trouble finding at other stores. The staff have always been great, too. :( 

    • Regular Bartell Shopper September 7, 2023 (8:08 am)

      Ditto Datamuse. When other stores were slowly deteriorating this store always held the welcoming, clean, product variety that is loved by long time Bartell’s customers, all topped off with a pharmacy that ran like clock work. Huge loss for those of us who choose to drive a little further for the steady local quality provided at this location. 

      • datamuse September 8, 2023 (9:43 am)

        Their pharmacy has been great–I’ve been getting all my shots there in addition to picking up scrips because it’s convenient and they do them well. I hope the staff find other, better situations.

  • Timmy Pickles September 6, 2023 (10:52 pm)

    Just a heads up as I had a prescription at the closing lqa store. They will tell you your prescription is ready automatically but not actually have it because corporate will stop sending new supplies. The store folks have no control over it and I watched the poor counter person get screamed at by four people before I was up. 

    • Pauline September 7, 2023 (12:20 pm)

      Good to know as I have automatic refills for my mother. I think I will have to call in my doctor for new prescriptions for my mom to another pharmacy chain asap. 

    • Pauline September 7, 2023 (12:55 pm)

      UPDATE: Last day for pharmacy service is 26th. You can still get meds until then…All refills will be automatically transferred over to Rite Aid Westwood!!! With the exception of some Rx (couldn’t catch it but I think it’s Rx that are administer with small dosage and monitored very closely. I would double check as you may need to re-prescribe from your provider to Rite Aid). 

      • Kt September 7, 2023 (2:19 pm)

        Excellent.  Thanks for the intel on the RX transfers

      • WhiteCenterGuy September 7, 2023 (5:29 pm)

        Wowww, good to know– I literally transferred my prescriptions from that Rite Aid to this Bartell Drugs because the service was terrible there. Unless things have improved within the last year or so I may just transfer to a different Bartell’s and make the extra trip.  You won’t catch me at Walgreen’s, either– I’m just heartbroken. 

        • datamuse September 8, 2023 (9:45 am)

          Same–I had a number of negative experiences at that Rite Aid and Bartell was actually closer to my house. That was awhile ago, and my husband uses that Rite Aid and has no complaints, so maybe they’ve improved?

      • BlairJ September 10, 2023 (8:33 am)

        Thanks Pauline for letting us know about the automatic transfer – one that I want to AVOID.  I asked the pharmacist at the WC Bartell how I can get my prescription transferred to Walgreen’s across the street, and she said I need to ask Walgreen’s to contact Bartell to make the transfer.  I will now be sure to do so before the 26th.

  • David September 7, 2023 (2:36 am)

    This store has been open since I was a little kid ( 60 years ago ) in White Center – very sad to see corporate greed and inept management destroy another Northwest institution 

    • SlimJim September 7, 2023 (9:48 am)

      Perhaps it’s not corporate greed. Maybe it’s just greed. That store, like most of the others that closed, was in an area where shoplifting was absolutely horrible. You can take it from me, or you can take it from the employee who commented on the blog here. I’ve dealt with Bartell as a store supplier for over 30 years and I can tell you the theft (& damage to my company’s display racks) is by far worse now than it has been in that 30 years. There may be other reasons stores are chosen for closing but an unprofitable store suffering rampant theft is going to get axed before others.

      • D-Ridge September 7, 2023 (10:07 am)

        The parent company Rite Aid is going bankrupt, it’s pretty straightforward what’s happening here. Veiled attempts to blame shoplifting won’t work for this corporate failure this time time.

        • Ferns September 7, 2023 (2:17 pm)

          I really dislike Rite Aid and when corporations behave like modern corporations prostrating only before shares, instead of like businesses run by human beings who belong to and have a personal stake in benefitting the community in which they operate. But a part of me wants to blame the owner of Bartell Drug for selling out to Rite Aid. I don’t know anything about the situation and of course think they are entitled to have their payday by selling the chain. But Rite-Aid just sucks. So whomever signed the paperwork to sell Bartell to Rite Aid also kind of sucks. They knew what rite-aid would do. They helped ruin the once enjoyable-to-shop-at chain of stores. 

        • SlimJim September 7, 2023 (3:25 pm)

          I’m no fan of Rite Aid but I’m no fan of conspiracy theories or exaggeration either. If you w ere a struggling corporation wouldn’t it make sense to you to get rid of the lowest performing, most trouble-prone stores? You may notice they haven’t sold their University Village Bartell store. It’s one of their busiest and probably most profitable. See any connection there?

      • Brian September 7, 2023 (10:54 am)

        Blaming individual consumers for a multi-million dollar company going bankrupt makes zero sense. You should try coming up with an explanation that makes more sense.

  • KT September 7, 2023 (4:09 am)

    That is a bummer…sad way to end the Bartell family legacy….not what old George would have wanted…but at least the grandkids got set up for life, eh?

    • Ferns September 7, 2023 (2:28 pm)

      Yeah, that’s my sentiment too. What a brilliant American tradition and family Legacy /s. Build up some thing respected in a community over 130 years and then sell it to a corporation that is itself going bankrupt and will run the family business into the ground in just 3-5 years. If it’s not this location changing and closing it’s another one. Until they’re all gone or feel just like rite-aid. RIP Bartell Drugs. 

  • Longtime Customer September 7, 2023 (5:49 am)

    Very sad.  Love this store and employees.

  • DRD September 7, 2023 (6:29 am)

    Since the buyout I have expected the Jefferson Square Bartells to be on the hit list since it is only a few blocks from a nearby Rite Aid. Crossing my fingers…

    • Sue H September 7, 2023 (3:13 pm)

      The Junction is a very densely populated neighborhood, and the Bartell is I believe the only free-standing pharmacy there now (since Pharmaca closed). There’s QFC Pharmacy, but not a free-standing drugstore. The RiteAid is nearly 1/2 mile away, so I don’t see the Bartell closing until it has to. 

  • Kyle September 7, 2023 (7:30 am)

    Is the Walgreens across the street still closed?

    • WSB September 7, 2023 (9:00 am)


  • Tran Nguyen September 7, 2023 (7:35 am)

    Oh that bus stop….

  • 22blades September 7, 2023 (7:48 am)

    “…closing some Bartell stores.” More like all of them. If you look into the history of Rite Aid, it’s a picture of a struggling corporation with revolving doors at the top leading to jail time for accounting scandals, kick-back schemes, unpublisized facial recognition technology use, illegal opiod presciptions, failed aquisitions like Bartells, & on & on… On August 25th, Rite Aid filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy under a tidal wave of Federal & State Opiod settlements. The regulators have failed the public.

    • WSB September 8, 2023 (10:33 am)

      To be clear: RA has not yet filed. Starting around that time, they were reported to be “preparing” a filing. Numerous references including WSJ (paywalled so I won’t link it) and here.

      • 22blades September 9, 2023 (5:18 am)

        Sorry. After experiencing 3 Chapter 11’s, I can smell a collapse a mile away.

  • tim September 7, 2023 (8:07 am)

    Theft. Even the shaving cream is under lock and key.

  • Joan September 7, 2023 (8:12 am)

     I have always preferred to do my drug store shopping at Bartells, as  “local” chain. They are unique. I hate Rite Aid. I hope we do not lose our WSeattle stores.

    • Kt September 7, 2023 (2:21 pm)

      Bartells sold the whole local chain for $95 million in 2020.  There is no local drug store chain anymore

  • ACG September 7, 2023 (8:29 am)

    So sad to see Bartell’s sell out to Rite Aid and then have the stores close. Sad to see, but not unexpected.  It was hands down our favorite drug store/pharmacy back in the day. 

  • Maggie September 7, 2023 (9:24 am)

    Well this stinks. I hate the Walgreens across the street but it’s so convenient to have a drug store within walking distance. We noticed last week that all grocery items were deeply discounted but the employee we asked about it didn’t know why. Makes sense. 

  • Jay September 7, 2023 (10:25 am)

    Rite-Aid acquired Bartell for $95 million in 2020, today Rite-Aid is only worth $38 million. The parent company is worth less than the brand they acquired.

  • fluffy September 7, 2023 (12:23 pm)

    I had a feeling this would be the case. I kind of wondered why they were keeping that store open this long when there’s a Rite-Aid location so close by at 26th and Barton.I am hugely not a fan of Walgreens so I guess I’ll be moving my prescriptions to Rite-Aid proper.

  • Matt September 7, 2023 (1:02 pm)

    I feel so badly for retail stores in the area that have no protection against rampant theft.  Civilized  societies impose consequences for stealing, without consequences law and order ceases to exist.

    • Kt September 7, 2023 (2:24 pm)

      Not condoning shoplifting, but civilized societies also ensure their citizens have shelter, healthcare, food, education and opportunity.  I suspect theft is not a huge issue in countries that are actually democracies and not run by corporations like we are here in the US.

      • Marlene Allbright September 7, 2023 (9:48 pm)

        You are 100% correct.

      • just wondering September 8, 2023 (9:36 am)

        Ok it seems like the US has all of this.  K-12 free education, and I know there are so many programs at community colleges if people want to take advantage.  Healthcare, it’s not perfect but what about Medicare and emergency rooms?  And finally, why are so many people fleeing to the US if it’s so bad?  Truly, it’s not perfect but wow, so much better than so many other countries.  I think you’d be hard pressed to fail here in the US if you actually give it a decent effort.  

  • 211 Club September 7, 2023 (2:45 pm)

    Just moved scripts to Sea Mar pharmacy just south of Bartells. Now when I pick up my free mens I won’t spend $50 on things I don’t need.

  • KD September 7, 2023 (6:41 pm)

    I’m also pissed at the corporate whahooos that screwed over the loyal Bartells customers from the get-go of the sale and transfer. Noticed it going downhill right away. Besides the longtime and wonderful employees who I could always depend on to be there, I’ve often worried the past year about all the local and Western Washington small business that have had contracts for years with Bartells. Part of the charm is going in for some of the hundreds of locally make items, such as Chukar Cherries or the halarious locally themed Nutcracker statues, always different every year. Coffee & tea mugs with the local neighborhoods on the side. What’s going to happen to all the wonderful wares of such and also those folks whose businesses depended on the sales at Bartells. But most importantly for those worried about prescriptions. Do NOT transfer them to any nearby Rite Aid. Those will probably close in the future here too. Right down the road on Roxbury from the WC Bartells is the Safeway Pharmacy. I’ve used them for decades and not only are they always staffed, but super caring, always want to help explain and answer questions. And just like Costco (which is another pharmacy which anyone can use, you do not have to be a member.. state law) is that you’ll notice the Roxbury Safeway Pharmacy employees all have been there quite awhile. I like that about businesses, that longtime employees stay there and are more involved and helpful. If some of you have anxiety about where to transfer to, I’d say don’t  worry about Roxbury Safeway. And for folks that don’t drive, there are two buses that go past on Roxbury from Bartells to Safeway. Only thing now is, with recommendations come longer lines! (😉) 

  • suze September 7, 2023 (8:06 pm)

    Private Equity takeover. 

  • Bartells Convert September 8, 2023 (8:32 am)

    Heartbreaking news. I used to go to Rite Aid years ago but was forced to switch pharmacies when they ended their contract with my Apple Health insurance provider. It was a blessing in disguise switching to Bartells. I have health insurance through my employer now but I’ll never go back to Rite Aid.

  • Pdavis September 8, 2023 (9:25 am)

    Yes, it does the same likely that Rite Aid purchased the wonderful and local long time chain of Bartell’s in order to destroy their competition:  Bartell’s….I agree with this person that we should not shop at Rite Aid and move our prescriptions and business over to Safeway and other companies. 

  • Montana Griz September 8, 2023 (11:39 am)

    I am sorry for the employees.I don’t buy for a moment that store theft is the issue here.Follow the money:  Rite-Aid is worth less now than what it paid for Bartell’s.  Watch bankruptcy filings made public any day now.  Watch executives get golden parachutes and taxpayers picking up yet again.  I’m as pro-enterprise as one can get, but corporate greed exploded when the SCOTUS decided in their infinite wisdom that corporations are people.I’m part of the problem here, though; last month, I Yelped the flyin’ duck out of my experiences there:  the phone is never picked up when I’d call to confirm a Rx was ready.  Excuse:  “We’re really short-staffed, and no one gets more than 20 hours a week now”.  Of course they’re short-staffed!  Employees have been leaving steadily since Rite-Aid changed the entire business model.So:  now my Rxs, money and I go to Des Moines, to the last independent pharmacy I know of:Des Moines Pharmacy627 S 227thDes Moines, WA206-878-2345Open til 5PM

    • Lisa September 27, 2023 (12:47 pm)

      Thanks for the awesome recommendation! I will move my prescriptions to DM Pharmacy since I work in town. They even have an app. :)

  • Brandon September 8, 2023 (4:39 pm)

    Who wants to explain the reasons of the supposed bankruptcy without mentioning the politics of inflation, crime + shrinkage, and only mentioning a veiled “corporate greed” moniker.  A poorly run business has little to do with “corporate greed”.  A business that has its profit margin slashed by higher costs of goods, and shrinkage is harder to compete with its other competitors, so its revenues needed to substantiate those costs are going to be reflected in higher prices to the individuals. As friendly and as warm as they are, I don’t shop there because of the prices, why would I expect any others to? I know people who would steal from there though.  Leveraging debt can only get you so far, and eventually the bottom profit streams get closed off in some manner of reorganization.  The corporation has ZERO obligation to operate at a loss when it can’t support it another way. So, what is this boogeyman corporate greed we’re talking about here?  This is what was voted for at the ballot box.  Just because that is misunderstood doesn’t mean it’s the corporation’s fault for failing to navigate their business through this crappy economy and societal issues.If you blame Rite Aid for closing the Bartells, you’re ignoring the blatant not-so common sense that Bartells would have closed the store too.

  • Milt Friedman September 8, 2023 (8:33 pm)

    Sounds like Brandon heard “let’s go” and went!Cheerleading for voodoo economics aside, the matter remains: Theft is the scapegoat here.  Unless statistics can be provided to prove that, then it’s convenient allegory.  By all means:  blame the big, bad poor folk instead of examining closely for dastardly deeds done dirt cheap at the corporate level.    God forbid accountability in accounting should be questioned.  After all, if Don can inflate his wealth by $3.2 billion, then store theft can be inflated to take away responsibility from other graduates of Wharton.

    • Brandon September 10, 2023 (1:02 pm)

      Milt Friedman. Is that an ironic nod to the economist? Or a hilarious coincidence? The point I was making was directed to the Marxists here who gloss over basic economics and skip to blaming the big wig as if they’re the sole source. Im all for accounting accountability. Id extend that notion to the general public when they go to the ballot box because that’s the where the politicians are playing with the taxpayers money and make it harder for local businesses to survive. In this case even big businesses are struggling. I realize Bartells wasnt a local business anymore after its acquisition under Rite aid but that purchase aside, remember how many local businesses went under in the last three years? PPP loans just shifted the problem to other individuals. Any accountability? Notice how those poor folk aren’t any better after the failed policies in the past? The answer is usually more affordable housing, then next cycle, more, then more. Any accountability? That corner out front of bartells has only gotten worse over the last 3 decades I’ve been around. Any accountability? Same policies still in office just different faces. So I don’t understand the community shock. What do you expect?

      • Jake September 11, 2023 (10:20 am)

        Big scary Marxists!!!! In your incoherent rambling, you didn’t think that capitalism was set up this way by design? Big ones eat the little ones etc. etc. 

        • Brandon September 11, 2023 (11:06 pm)

          Point proven.

  • DL September 8, 2023 (8:45 pm)

    The big issue is the dwindling amount of pharmacies available in west seattle ! The lines areusually long at the rite aid on California since Pharmaca closed. .. but they were improving ! And transferring prescriptions over and over again is so frustrating. 

  • Juan September 9, 2023 (7:31 am)

    This is distressing. Every time I go to visit out of state or abroad, Bartell was my go to for unique PNW made gifts/snacks/food/etc. Usually it was the Jefferson Square one or even the one by Westlake (before it closed). But to those dismissing shoplifting as a factor, I believe they closed the downtown Westlake pre right aid acquisition explicitly for issues of theft and employee safety. Walmart closed all 4 of their Portland locations for similar issues. REI closed their Portland location as well.  Downtown Seattle has had a number of stores closing due to issues of theft and employee safety. So while Rite Aid might be circling the drain and closing Bartells stores with it, can’t blame everything purely on the bankruptcy.  Shoplifting is a problem. 

  • Robert Passig September 9, 2023 (1:59 pm)

    It seemed that RiteAid was out to sink Bartell’s from the beginning. I’ll certainly not take my business to RiteAid after Bartells loses.  

  • AMD September 9, 2023 (6:23 pm)

    What will happen to the mail box out front when Bartell’s closes?

    • BlairJ September 10, 2023 (8:39 am)

      Good point.  That mail box will soon be in front of a vacant store front, which seems more likely to get vandalized.  Better to walk one block south to use the one by US Bank.

  • EDH September 11, 2023 (9:16 am)

    I know for a fact that when Rite Aid bought Bartell’s, they immediately started firing all of Rite Aids Corporate people and District and Regional managers. Since then it has completely gone down hill..

  • Kyle MV September 15, 2023 (3:49 pm)

    Coming Soon: Bar Tell’s – new bar to White Center

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