SALEM — A venerable old Salem name vanished over the weekend when Eaton Apothecary closed its doors.
The Canal Street drugstore, whose roots go back nearly a century, was shuttered as part of Walgreens' acquisition of 12 Eaton Apothecary pharmacies in the Boston area. The $19 million deal was finalized Friday.
"It's unfortunate," said Jim Crosby, who lost a tenant at his Crosby's Marketplace on Canal Street. "There's not a lot of small people left."
Walgreens is the country's largest drugstore chain with more than 7,000 stores.
Although Eaton's was a grand old name in Salem, it has not been owned and operated by the Eaton family for many years. The Canal Street store was part of a small, regional chain owned by D.A.W. Inc., a subsidiary of Nyer Medical Group.
In fact, the era of the family-owned drugstore in this city really disappeared two decades ago.
"I was the last independent in town," said Ray Vaillancourt, the former owner of Vaillancourt Pharmacy on Lafayette Street, who sold his business to Eaton's around 1990.
When he opened in Salem in the 1960s, there were 13 independent drugstores in Salem, Vaillancourt said, with names like Poussard's and Lussier.
Eaton's was started in the 1920s by F. Elmer Eaton, whose first store, Eaton the Druggist, was at the corner of Essex and St. Peter streets — when those two streets used to connect, according to "Images in America," a pictorial history of the city.
Over the years, Eaton drugstores opened on Lafayette Street, North Street, New Derby Street and at a second Essex Street site.
"I grew up hanging around the soda fountain in an Eaton drugstore that used to be located on the corner of Lafayette and Leach streets," said George Atkins, an attorney and president of the Salem Partnership.
John Boris, a local businessman, remembers when Eaton's was in the Hawthorne Building at the corner of New Derby and Washington streets.
"That was called the Eaton block," he said.
While closing in Salem and Gloucester, Eaton Apothecaries will remain in business in Peabody, Lynn and other locations.
The Eaton's stores in Danvers and Marblehead, which were part of this acquisition, are now both called "Eaton Apothecary, a Walgreens pharmacy." The prescription records from the Eaton's on Canal Street were moved to the Walgreens on New Derby Street, the company said.
Over the weekend, a truck came and went at the Canal Street store as workers closed up the city's last Eaton's. It was the end, in some ways, of an era.
"Within five years," Vaillancourt said, "nationwide you're going to see two chains, Walgreens and CVS — that's it."