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17 February 2010

How (Possibly) Duane Reade Got Its Name

With today's announcement that Walgreen's has agreed to purchase the iconic NYC drug store Duane Reade, I get to walk down memory lane.

During the summer of 1979, I worked for the General Services Administration at Six World Trade Center (yes, part of the Twin Towers complex). Staying with my grandmother at her apartment on Hester Street in Chinatown/Little Italy, I would walk to work in the mornings as I figured that walking all the way down to WTC is almost the same as walking to Canal Street to catch a train and then, walking from Court Street or another station near the WTC, with the added benefit of saving money, getting exercise and living the City.

There are many, many Duane Reade drug store branch locations in NYC. The one I frequented that summer was right on my way to and from my summer job. One day, I looked up and noticed that I was crossing Duane Street. I then passed a very large Duane Reade store which took up the whole block* and thought, how cool, there's a Duane Reade at the corner of Duane Street. And, then, I had to cross another street and its name was Reade Street. Eureka!

Looking at a map of Lower Manhattan in my research for this posting, I see that Duane and Reade Streets are not perfectly parallel, but run very close to each other for several blocks in a northeasterly way. I would say the two streets are only a block apart, but this would be a Lower Manhattan "block," versus the insistent Illinoisan who tells me that *there are 8 blocks to a mile and thus, a true block =1/8 of a mile and this is a universal measure. Being a New Yorker, I knew right away from the first time he expounded on it, that this measure is not universal. On the other hand, I will concede that for the length at which Duane and Reade Streets run nearly parallel, they are not full blocks apart, which means that it is imaginable that there are more than one Duane Reade drug store locations between Chinatown and the world Trade Center. Of course, since I am talking about 1979, it is also likely that as we write & read in 2010, there are none between Duane and Reade Streets.


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