Column: Reminders of the days of Rexall drugs and Schmidt beer

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 25, 2005

In this year’s Progress Edition of the Tribune are two photos which feature the Rexall name. Here in Albert Lea the only reminder of this once famous brand name is the faded sign on the side of the former drug store at the southwest corner of Broadway Avenue and Clark Street. At the present time The Taco King is at the place which was a pharmacy for either 111 or 114 years of the city’s history. (This difference in years is based on which reference source is used to determine the age of this old brick building.)

The Rexall name originated with the Rx symbol for the pharmaceutical profession and products, plus a few added letters.

The name of Rexall may still be somewhat familiar, yet there doesn’t seem to be any drug stores or pharmacies in the area still using this word as part of their listings. To get an updated answer, I checked with the Internet.

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There didn’t seem to be very much information available about the early history of Rexall, except for the following:

&uot;In 1903, a pharmacist named Louis Liggett and his most trusted colleagues formulated a plan to address a great consumer need: To have America’s first patented medicines conveniently available through neighborhood drug stores. This marked the beginning of the Rexall company and broke ground in the budding franchise industry, providing one of the best entrepreneurial opportunities available at that time.&uot;

The name Rexall was used by independent, locally-owned drug stores in a multitude of American communities, including Albert Lea. Another entry I found on the Internet, after a long search, said in 1982 this firm had 300 company-owned stores and 12,000 franchises. This firm had a line of quality products with the Rexall logo, plus a name trusted and recognized by consumers.

What has happened to the Rexall name? There are two answers. One was furnished by a retired local pharmacist who said Rexall went &uot;belly up&uot; about 20 years ago. In other words, this famous firm, started in 1903, became bankrupt because of intense competition and what could be considered as poor management. The other answer which I found on the Internet provided an interesting update on this name. It said:

&uot;Rexall is a producer of nutritional supplements. The company history dates back to 1976 when founder Carl DeSantis created ‘Sundown,’ an inexpensive suntan lotion. He went on to market vitamins via mail order and began to sell his products on the shelves of local pharmacies. In 1985 the company acquired the trademark Rexall for marketing purposes. &uot;Probably one of

the misunderstood things about Rexall is the fact that today they are not at all related to the drug store chain ‘Rexall,’ with the exception they paid money to acquire their trademark.

&uot;In 1990 the company began distributing its products through a network of independent distributors under the name of Rexall Showcase International. &uot;Since then, Rexall’s product focus has expanded to include herbal products, vitamins, and other commodity health products. The company went public in 1993 and was traded on the NASDAQ under the name of Rexall Sundown Inc. In June 2000 Rexall was acquired by Royal Numico, a multi-billion dollar nutritional company based out of the Netherlands that owns several companies, including GNC.&uot;

There’s another often overlooked reminder here in Albert Lea of a firm which no longer exists.

On the front of the brick building at the southwest corner of Adams Avenue and College Street, now occupied by Pederson Industrial Sales, is a design in stone near the roofline. It’s a star with the words Schmidt and St. Paul.

This building was once used by the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Co. of St. Paul about eight to nine decades ago as a warehouse to store beer which was shipped to Albert Lea from the brewery by railroad cars. From this warehouse the beer was sent in bottles and kegs to customers in the area.

(Feature writer Ed Shannon’s column appears each Friday.)