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Jacksonville History: Setzer's & Pic N' Save Drugs

Metro Jacksonville shares the history of the rise and fall of two major Jacksonville companies founded by Lithuanian immigrant and former Springfield resident, Benjamin Setzer: Setzer's Supermarkets and Pic N' Save Drugs.

Published October 12, 2012 in History      29 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article




In addition to Jacksonville, Colomer also operates production facilities in Denver, Vista, CA, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Spain, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, United Kingdom, Russia, Portugal, Germany, and Sweden.


Pic N' Save Drugs


The Longwood, FL Pic N' Save store in 1983.

After Food Fair's acquisition of Setzer's, Benjamin Setzer focused on his other up and coming business, Pic 'N Save Drugs. Pic 'N Save was designed to be the area's first self-service store, which was considered a new concept in retailing at the time.  It's motto was to "Stack It High And Sell It Cheap."

Seven years before Sam Walton opened his first Walmart, Setzer and his partners, opened the first Pic 'N Save in Arlington's Town & Country Shopping Center, a Setzer real estate development, in 1955.  At the time of Benjamin Setzer's death in 1969, the chain had grown to 25 stores.  

Despite the acquisition of Setzer's Supermarkets years earlier, Setzer kept control of the company's 200,000 square foot general offices and distribution center in the Springfield Warehouse District.  There, the corporate entity was branded as the National Merchandise Company, with Pic N' Save being a trademark name owned by the company.  In addition to this historic warehouse and office facility, the company acquired 100 acres on North Main Street, near Imeson Airport, for additional warehouse needs.  Between 1955 and 1957, over 200,000 square feet of additional warehouse space was constructed to support the retailer's rapid growth.

Under the leadership of Setzer's son Leonard, the chain grew to peak in the mid-1980s, employing over 3,000 in 40 stores throughout Florida and Georgia. At the chain's height, six out of ten Jacksonville residents shopped there on a regular basis.  The company's stores ranged in size from 14,835 square feet to 93,600 square feet, allowing them to operate in a number of urban environments.


A sketch of the 8661 Old Kings Road (Baymeadows) Pic N' Save anchored shopping center during the 1980s.

The late 1980s brought competition with the arrival of larger chains like K-mart and Walmart, who also "stacked them higher while selling them cheaper."  Another negative impacting the firm was its reluctance to invest in new technology and information systems to track business, something that the competitors excelled at.

While competition increased, the descendants of Benjamin Setzer were disputing over the family-owned company's operations and at the end of 1994, the number of stores in the chain had decreased to 38. In February 1995, the company filed for bankrupcty citing a lose of $38 million in the previous 13 months.  In May 1996, just three months after a judge approved a bankruptcy reorganization plan for the company, Pic N' Save announced its decision to close its remaining 27 stores and laying off its remaining 1,800 employees (1,100 in Jacksonville).  The lose of Setzer's Pic N' Save was a major blow for many neighborhoods throughout Jacksonville.  Unlike the national chains of the 21st century, Pic N' Save had typically maintained stores in sections of town, such as Springfield, New Town, and Lackawanna, that were underserved by other retailers.


Pic N' Save: The Final 27


The former Pic N' Save at 8661 Old Kings Road, near Baymeadows Road today.

Jacksonville Region

725 Atlantic Blvd., Atlantic Beach
10800 Atlantic Blvd.
248 Blanding Blvd., Orange Park
5432 Blanding Blvd.
1215 Dunn Ave.
1090 N . Edgewood Ave.
27 E. 7th St.
203 W. 48th St.
8000 Lem Turner Road
517 S. McDuff Ave.
5535 Normandy Blvd.
8661 Old Kings Road
11740 San Jose Blvd.
1950 San Marco Blvd.
999 University Blvd. N .
5909 University Blvd. W.

Florida

Belleview
Gainesville (2)
Longwood
Ocala
Ormond Beach
Madison
Live Oak

Georgia

Jesup
Valdosta
Waycross



Setzer's/Pic N' Save's former corporate headquarters and distribution center in Springfield's Warehouse District today.

In addition to the closing of 27 stores, the chain's shut down included a 280,000 square foot warehouse on North Main Street and a 200,000 square foot warehouse on Liberty Street, which had become Setzer's Building Materials and Construction.


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29 Comments

billy

October 12, 2012, 06:23:19 AM
I believe the family still owns Liberty Street warehouse.

gedo3

October 12, 2012, 07:50:54 AM
Such a shame!  Pic N' Save always had some really good buys (I still have a watch from there!), some very nice sales help--and the ones that had little restaurants in them often had some of the best desserts!  It would be interesting to have seen a Pic N' Save and a Walmart store in competition! 

thelakelander

October 12, 2012, 08:19:41 AM
I went through some of my MJ photo archives, in search of an image of the original Setzer's at 5th & Silver that was torn down around 2007/2008 for a condo project that was never built.  Couldn't find it but I did find a ton of images of isolated urban core buildings that have been demolished since 2003.  It's crazy and will deserve an article of its own.

fieldafm

October 12, 2012, 09:52:23 AM
You know you're a Jacksonville native when you give directions that end in '... Down near where the Pic N Save used to be'.  I do that a lot. 

finehoe

October 12, 2012, 09:52:49 AM
I didn't know that the Town & Country Pic N' Save was the first one.  Another great history article. 

duvaldude08

October 12, 2012, 10:07:26 AM
Pic N Save!! Whoot! Whoot! Whoot!!   ;D

duvaldude08

October 12, 2012, 10:08:38 AM
You know you're a Jacksonville native when you give directions that end in '... Down near where the Pic N Save used to be'.  I do that a lot.

Me too!!

duvaldude08

October 12, 2012, 10:26:44 AM
Spent so much time in Pic N Save as a child. 48th and main. I can remember going with 5.00 to buy my MC Hammer tapes (dont judge me)

Bike Jax

October 12, 2012, 10:28:48 AM
I worked for the Setzer's at the very Pic N' Save you have pictured above on Old Kings & Baymeadows in the late '70's. Despite being in high school and having a work permit to only work as minor one night a week till midnight. I worked 90 hours a week as a part time employee. I remember making jokes about when full time employees had time sleep. They where there when I got there and still there when I left. We referred to the place as Pic N' Slave.

Speaking of Slavery, I've never worked for a more openly racist company. It was openly known that black employees where only allowed to work in the cafeteria or as floor buffers. They where not ever allowed to be moved or promoted to stockers or check out. Even in the cafeteria, whites were the managers and ran the cash register.

Later after leaving Pic N' Save I took a summer job doing home construction. One of our projects that summer was to build and extension on a home at the beaches belonging to one of the Setzer's (I forget which one). One Friday as we were packing up for the weekend, one of the guys fell into the pool. He happened to be black. Hearing the noise and laughter from the crew Setzer came storming out and seeing what had happened and who had fallen into his pool, demanded that we stay, drain the pool and clean it. Seriously. I don't know the man who started business. But have I first hand knowledge that the later Setzer's were some most racist, bigoted people in this city. If we are going to remember history, lets remember it all, the good and the bad.

thelakelander

October 12, 2012, 10:41:25 AM
Spent so much time in Pic N Save as a child. 48th and main. I can remember going with 5.00 to buy my MC Hammer tapes (dont judge me)

Don't tell me you have a long lost pair of Hammer pants in your closet?

finehoe

October 12, 2012, 11:02:09 AM
Despite being in high school and having a work permit to only work as minor one night a week till midnight. I worked 90 hours a week as a part time employee.

That sounds like the kind of work environment that several MJ posters still support.

urbanlibertarian

October 12, 2012, 11:07:26 AM
It's interesting to me how the different phases of the history of this town are defined by commerce.  From minor seaport and river crossing of the King's Road to bigger seaport, ship builder and naval stores exporter to bigger seaport and tourist destination to ocean liner destination and railroad hub to banking and insurance center.

Also the racism BikeJax wrote about is not surprising to anyone who grew up around here.

duvaldude08

October 12, 2012, 11:43:16 AM
Spent so much time in Pic N Save as a child. 48th and main. I can remember going with 5.00 to buy my MC Hammer tapes (dont judge me)

Don't tell me you have a long lost pair of Hammer pants in your closet?



No. Actually, I bought a pair of those work out pants that resemble MC hammer pants thank you very much! And my last day of school in the 4th grade we cleared the desk, put on my tape and the entire class the the type writer! My 4th grade teacher was the coolest man! LOL

duvaldude08

October 12, 2012, 12:25:12 PM
I worked for the Setzer's at the very Pic N' Save you have pictured above on Old Kings & Baymeadows in the late '70's. Despite being in high school and having a work permit to only work as minor one night a week till midnight. I worked 90 hours a week as a part time employee. I remember making jokes about when full time employees had time sleep. They where there when I got there and still there when I left. We referred to the place as Pic N' Slave.

Speaking of Slavery, I've never worked for a more openly racist company. It was openly known that black employees where only allowed to work in the cafeteria or as floor buffers. They where not ever allowed to be moved or promoted to stockers or check out. Even in the cafeteria, whites were the managers and ran the cash register.

Later after leaving Pic N' Save I took a summer job doing home construction. One of our projects that summer was to build and extension on a home at the beaches belonging to one of the Setzer's (I forget which one). One Friday as we were packing up for the weekend, one of the guys fell into the pool. He happened to be black. Hearing the noise and laughter from the crew Setzer came storming out and seeing what had happened and who had fallen into his pool, demanded that we stay, drain the pool and clean it. Seriously. I don't know the man who started business. But have I first hand knowledge that the later Setzer's were some most racist, bigoted people in this city. If we are going to remember history, lets remember it all, the good and the bad.

Very true statement about the rascism. I have a white friend who is quite older than me (lol) and she said she was a cashier at Pic N Save and said that she could not believe the rasicism that existed. Times have really changed.

Coolyfett

October 12, 2012, 01:16:46 PM
You know you're a Jacksonville native when you give directions that end in '... Down near where the Pic N Save used to be'.  I do that a lot. 


ha ha that classic I used to do that all the time!! Moms used to go to the one on Blanding & the one on McDuff Ave...does anyone remember Premier Foods??? Back in day right there.

thelakelander

October 12, 2012, 02:43:17 PM
A few old Setzer's and Pic N' Save buildings still around.

517 South McDuff Avenue


1950 San Marco Blvd


919 King Street


4128 Herschel Street


Mike D

October 12, 2012, 09:28:43 PM
The Setzers in San Marco Square later became a Pic N' Save.  Seems like it was there well into the '90's, or at least the 1980's.  I always kind of liked Pic N' Save...you never knew what you were going to find and, as I recall, the food in their cafeteria/snack bars was pretty good.  However, I did not know about the racist tendencies of the place.  If that's the case, it's just as well their time has gone.

Bativac

October 14, 2012, 12:42:34 AM
The Setzers in San Marco Square later became a Pic N' Save.  Seems like it was there well into the '90's, or at least the 1980's.  I always kind of liked Pic N' Save...you never knew what you were going to find and, as I recall, the food in their cafeteria/snack bars was pretty good.

My dad worked there in the mid to late 70s. In later years, before Pic 'N' Save went away, dad would tell me horror stories about the terrible, disgusting conditions the food was kept in, and health inspectors being literally physically thrown out by Setzer. A shame the chain failed, in some regards, based on the neighborhoods they served... But all things considered, maybe it was time for them to die.

Coolyfett

October 14, 2012, 10:27:49 AM
Seems they got what was coming to them...Time always tells the story.

ben says

October 14, 2012, 10:33:03 AM
Does anyone have a 1980's/1990's picture of San Marco's Pic N' Save?

BackinJax05

January 03, 2013, 01:14:49 AM
Whatever you want, Pic N Save has it! Pic N Save has it for less!

They've been gone for almost 20 years now, and I still cant get that damned jingle out of my head.

duvaldude08

January 03, 2013, 01:50:11 AM
Whatever you want, Pic N Save has it! Pic N Save has it for less!

They've been gone for almost 20 years now, and I still cant get that damned jingle out of my head.

Wasnt there another saying Pic N save, have it your way" Or something like that?

blfair

January 03, 2013, 01:20:17 PM
My dad worked there for over 20 years, all the way to the bitter end. He may have been one of the last employees actually, as he helped shut down the distribution center.

When I was a kid that was basically the only place we shopped other than the grocery store. We didn't even speak the name "Wal-Mart". I remember when they had Richard Petty in the stores for an autograph session and my brother and I had VIP access...  ;D

My favorite ex-Pic 'N Save location is the Sandalwood store. It's now Subaru of Jacksonville. If you look carefully in their parking lot you can see where they tore down part of the old store and just left the slab behind, and turned part of the structure into an overhang out front. There are spots in the parking lot where there used to be columns that they cut out.

Ocklawaha

January 03, 2013, 02:30:58 PM
I think there was a Setzers at Kingsley and Park in 'downtown' Orange Park back when that was the intersection of a 2 lane federal highway and a divided 2 lane Kingsley with a yellow flashing like over the center! Pic-N-Save also had stores over at 103Rd and Blanding. The Pic-N-Save flagship stores tended to be in newer locations such as the really large (about the average Wal-Mart size) stores on SR 434 in Longwood, FL. I bought a nice little microwave oven at that Longwood Store back in the 1980's and then, overnight it seemed, they were gone.

Jaxson

January 03, 2013, 08:05:58 PM
I remember going to Pic N' Save to buy notebook paper for a bargain and to buy other affordable school supplies.  I also remember going with my family to the Pic N' Save buffet on San Jose Boulevard back in the day.  I also remember my junior high school classmates teasing our peers about shopping at Pic N' Save even though we all knew that somebody was going there on a regular basis.  I think that the undoing of Pic N' Save was not just Wal-Mart, but the failure of the Setzer family to overcome their own internal challenges...

BackinJax05

January 04, 2013, 12:01:14 AM
Whatever you want, Pic N Save has it! Pic N Save has it for less!

They've been gone for almost 20 years now, and I still cant get that damned jingle out of my head.

Wasnt there another saying Pic N save, have it your way" Or something like that?

I dont think so. "Have it your way" was Burger King's tagline for many years.

Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce.
Special orders dont upset us.
All we ask is that you let us HAVE IT YOUR WAY. (or something like that)

Yeah, I watched alot of TV when I was a kid.

BackinJax05

January 04, 2013, 12:07:06 AM
I remember going to Pic N' Save to buy notebook paper for a bargain and to buy other affordable school supplies.  I also remember going with my family to the Pic N' Save buffet on San Jose Boulevard back in the day.  I also remember my junior high school classmates teasing our peers about shopping at Pic N' Save even though we all knew that somebody was going there on a regular basis.  I think that the undoing of Pic N' Save was not just Wal-Mart, but the failure of the Setzer family to overcome their own internal challenges...

Oh God! You brought back a terrible flashback: For several years, the evening of the 1st day of school meant a pilgimage to the Town N Country Pic N Save (both of them) for school supplies for the year. The 1st one was a small store. The 2nd one was HUGE, and had a restaurant. 

There was also a Pic N Save on Lone Star Road, about a block east of Townsend Blvd. It was a big store with a restaurant, too. As I recall, Pic N Save restaurants weren't bad - but hardly 5 star dining.

cindy394

February 27, 2013, 11:56:42 AM
It is ironic that the perception among immigrants to the black community is so racist- especially since many stores and businesses profited in those neighborhoods that blacks primarily lived and to which most immigrant families lived themselves until they could afford to leave. The jewish and the middle eastern communities were also (still?) excessively racist in my experience. The writer's story about a Setzer family member demanding a pool be drained and washed out ( if true) is an example of this extremist and appalling view. I have heard many members of Jacksonville's middle eastern family members use the word abd or abid to describe blacks, which actually means "slave". Perhaps they are trying to distance themselves from the perceived caste in our society of the poorer classes of which they themselves were not so long ago.

duvaldude08

February 27, 2013, 12:45:37 PM
I remember going to Pic N' Save to buy notebook paper for a bargain and to buy other affordable school supplies.  I also remember going with my family to the Pic N' Save buffet on San Jose Boulevard back in the day.  I also remember my junior high school classmates teasing our peers about shopping at Pic N' Save even though we all knew that somebody was going there on a regular basis.  I think that the undoing of Pic N' Save was not just Wal-Mart, but the failure of the Setzer family to overcome their own internal challenges...

You must never EVER buy clothes from pic n save or you are asking to get bullied  ;D
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