Video by Matt Bylis
BALTIMORE — West Baltimore’s Rite-Aid celebrated its grand re-opening Tuesday with several government officials, company representatives, and community members at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The drug store, located at 300 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., sustained significant damage from the civil unrest that followed Freddie Gray’s death last April. Rebuilding took months.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, White House Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson, State Sen. Catherine Pugh, D-Baltimore, and several Baltimore city council members offered their appreciation for Rite-Aid’s commitment to the community.
The officials all expressed their gratitude to the store’s employees for their continued efforts to serve the community after the civil unrest.
“These pharmacies are very, very important,” Cummings said. “They are survival stations. They allow people to get well, they allow them to have their disease cured, provide an opportunity for them to get groceries. Survival. And I thank Rite-Aid for recognizing that.”
Cummings stressed that Baltimore is “open for business” and hopes that the re-opening will inspire other businesses damaged during the unrest to reopen.
“We are a city, that we may stumble from time to time, but we get up. We keep going. And Rite-Aid is a part of that keep-going,” Cummings said.
Rawlings-Blake said that she refused to let Baltimore be defined by the unrest and destruction that took place last spring.
“Our city will be defined and will continue to be defined by how we respond, how we choose to work together to rebuild those businesses damaged by the unrest, to address the fundamental issues of income inequality, housing needs, job opportunities, and so much more,” Rawlings-Blake said.
The mayor expressed her appreciation to Rite-Aid for the company’s “commitment to stay and continue to thrive.”
The Rite-Aid set up trailers in its parking lot while the building was being rebuilt, in order to ensure that local customers were able to get their prescription medicines.
Rawlings-Blake said that pharmacies are the “lifeline” for many of Baltimore’s most vulnerable populations, such as the elderly. She said that she went with the health commissioner to deliver prescription medicines to the community’s seniors, and noted that many of them were devastated at the destruction of their local pharmacies.
“Looting, the other destruction, affected not just the companies and the individuals who own these pharmacies, but also the many residents who rely on these stores for their critical prescription drugs and supplies,” Rawlings-Blake said.
Rawlings-Blake said that there are more than 100 Rite-Aid locations in the Baltimore area, bringing in 800 jobs to Baltimore City alone.
Pugh called the store an “economic development hub,” with all of the people who work and shop at Rite-Aid and the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy close by.
The reopened Rite-Aid location has been fully updated, with brand new features such as a drive-thru pharmacy, new decorations, and more easily accessible merchandise in an open and inviting environment, the company’s executive vice president of operations, Bryan Everett, explained at the ribbon-cutting.
“We have a partner that has become an even better partner,” Baltimore City Councilman William Welch said, referring to Rite-Aid.
Pugh also expressed her gratitude to Rite-Aid for its investment in Baltimore.
“This is not just a drug store,” she said. “This is a place where people come to get all kinds of needs that they have, not just for themselves, but for their families. We are grateful, grateful that Rite-Aid has continued to be a part of this community.”
Rite-Aid, demonstrating its continued commitment to the community, also presented a $10,000 grant to the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Elementary School for physical fitness equipment.