Dave Gillis

My introduction to Osco came in an interview I had with Fred Dearborn and Bill King on a Pharmacy recruiting trip to South Dakota State University. I can remember how friendly and down to earth both of them were and the enthusiasm they conveyed when talking about Osco. The real selling point for me was the statement, “With Osco you manage the store like an owner and are paid based on the profits of the store, so in essence you get to be an owner without any investment”. I was offered a job in May of 1961.


The next thirty eight years were exciting, challenging, and rewarding. As I think back on those thirty eight years the recollections I have that are most vivid all center around the many people I had the good fortune to work with in a variety of assignments. My first store was Springfield, Illinois. The store managers in the two years I was there were Bill Mayfield, Tork Fuglestad and Dan Baranick. All of them were interested in teaching me the Osco philosophy of doing business and about total store operations any time I wasn’t filling prescriptions. What I learned from them in this first assignment served me well throughout my career.


The year I spent college recruiting I reported to John Spurlock. What I remember most about John in addition to his sense of humor was the impact he had on how we evaluated people in the business. Back then a high priority was placed on hours worked and commitment. As personnel manager John changed the way we evaluated people, by requiring annual performance appraisals that brought an honest assessment of performance and future career possibilities. This change was only the beginning of many changes that took place over the years that made me proud of our company. A couple of others that come to mind would be establishing the minority sponsorship program, and promoting increased number of women into management positions.

It’s not easy to talk about or reflect on the highlights of a thirty eight year career in a couple of pages. There’re so many people you would like to talk about because they were so important to your success and the success of the business. You could also talk about all the change that took place as the company grew from 30 stores to a national chain because of the hard work and dedication of thousands of loyal and enthusiastic employees. I can say that I always felt I was being mentored by the best people in the drug business and later the food business.


People who worked hard, played hard and through it all kept a great sense of humor. I tried to be one of those. The year I spent as director of new stores we opened some thirty plus stores. What made this possible was the hard work and expertise of Rex Dobey and Don Lohr who as new store set up specialists had to know every aspect of store operations and construction. I marveled at the way they kept a handle on all the details of a new store.

My years as a district manager were exciting to say the least. Byron Luke was in charge of the Chicagoland stores and had the daunting task of making them profitable. While he was a tough taskmaster, his knowledge of store operations, merchandising, and advertising won him everyone’s respect. Morale improved alongwith sales and earnings and Chicagoland Osco became one of the best earning divisions.


My Crest Photo experience was a chance to run a separate business while still being supported by a parent company. I reported to Bill Jacobs who provided valuable insights and guidance in all major decisions. These included plant expansion, sales and marketing programs and investment. It was a great thirteen years. The highlight of that experience was the introduction of “Next day or free film processing”. The success of this program made possible the expansion to two additional plants. Here again I was fortunate to have people ready for additional responsibility. These included Harvey Johnson, Jim Esp, Al Steinman, Liz Garrett, Vince Hansen and many hard working dedicated production people. All of them made being a part of the Crest organization exciting and rewarding.


Returning to Chicago after a year in the Intermountain Region was like a homecoming. Having spent most of my career in Chicago it was great to be back with so many of the people I got to know and work with over the years. A key part of this assignment was working with Ed McManus of Jewel on a new company called Jewel-Osco which would include all combo stores and food and drug free standing stores in Chicago and the surrounding area. The culture of the two companies was quite different. We needed to convince store managers and Dm’s on both sides that being one company with one mission could produce results better than those of the individual companies added together. We used the slogan 1+1=3. It required a lot of meetings with store managers and operation staffs and cross training of DM’s. Once the results started showing up in sales and earnings the transition became much easier. As I recall the new company produced the best results of the American Stores companies. Here again the credit goes to the DM’s and a lot of dedicated staff and store managers for making it work.

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