Jacksonville History: Setzer's & Pic N' Save DrugsOctober 12, 2012 44 comments Print Article
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.
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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.
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.
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.