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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pay 'n Save Drug Stores

If you grew up in the Pacific Northwest from the '60s to the '80s, you no doubt remember this sign:

Pay 'n Save's ubiquitous blue/green block letter signs were everywhere in strip malls, REAL malls and shopping centers all over the Pacific Northwest, well into California and as far east as Montana and Wyoming.

The Seattle based drug store chain's blue/green colour scheme did not end at just their signs. Their stores interiors and their house brand of products all had it too.

....and their bags.....

I worked at a Pay n' Save. And at the end of the day, after I came home and I took my blue vest, blue pants and green work shirt off. I immediately took a shower to make absolutely sure I got ALL this blue/green crap off of me. Just to make sure.....

You quickly begin to HATE corporate colour schemes in a few weeks.

Some old timers I remember still got away with this shirt

Pay 'n Save grew to be force to be reckoned with. QUICKLY. (Even at their ORIGINAL location at 4th & Pike Street in Seattle, which - KUDOS for them, was STILL in business. until the day Pay 'n Save went officially bankrupt.)

They also had a hydroplane, the popular Miss Pay 'n Save.

 It acquired Fred Ernst's hardware chain and Malmo Nurseries in 1959. And the snazziest department store this side of Frederick & Nelson, Rhodes in 1968....

The Rhodes department store chain became Lamont's in 1970.

The Pay 'n Save Empire had grown to also include Schuck's Auto Supply, Yard Birds and Bi-Mart. But like many regional retail chains, over expansion in the '70s, various ownerships and increased competition from national chains in the '80s led to the once giant retailer's demise in the late '80s. Pay 'n Save was sold to competitor Payless Drug in 1989 and Payless was absorbed by the national Rite-Aid chain in 1996.



  1. I don't know how many of these there were in Canada, but many newspaper ads from the 1960s and 70s confirm the existence of a location in downtown Regina, Saskatchewan.

    1. My grandmother lived across the street from the downtown Regina Pay 'n Save; I remember going shopping there with her. Even years later, there are some things that turn up in my parents' basement with Pay 'n Save price labels.

    2. I worked for store number 405 which was in Delta BC. We were the first store to open up in Canada in 1972. They lasted till about 1980 when the Canadian government made it difficult for American companies to operate in Canada...way before FreeTrade. My bosses were Al Gillet, Carl Tillson, Russ Mitchell and Errol Darling. Carl was the only one who remained in Canada.

    3. I remember a Pay 'n Save store in the Maple Ridge Square mall in Maple Ridge (called Haney back then). There is a Petsmart store in that location now. I always wondered why it closed the Maple Ridge store but it may be because of your comment about the Canadian government making it difficult on US companies working up here at that time. As I recall, it closed in the late 1970's or right around 1980 so your timeline sounds about right. I remember making regular stops at that store as a kid with my parents.

    4. They were nearly an empire in the Pacific Northwest. It was a shock when I found out they were going out of business. But looking back, they often made bold (and sometimes ridiculously huge) expansions, only to suddenly retreat when the economy dipped (my old store closed a few months after I left. And they were a brand new store!) I think it was the loss of the Canadian franchises that might have played some role in the overall failure of the Pay N' Save company as a whole on top of the bulimic expansion/purging business model.

      Which reminds me of a local supermarket chain, Haggen that's been doing the same thing in a recent failed deal with Albertson's and Safeway. Whether it was one party's fault or the other in this case isn't the point. From history and my own observation, it's just not a sound idea for any chain to get too big, too fast.

    5. Worked for Pay 'n Save from '74 to and through all the changes until 1994? Pay 'n Save, PayLess, Rite Aid (Seattle, Idaho, Hawaii). always wanted to transfer to Vancouver, Canada. Al Gillet was my district manager when I started in Seattle. I Loved this company.

  2. I also worked for Pay'n save in Auburn, in the 70's. Do you have any information on who handled the pension plan? Wasn't it a retail clerks union? I have been trying to find out but have so far struck out.

    1. It is now Sound Retirement Trust. 201 Queen Anne Ave.North, Suite 100. 206-282-4500 and/or 1-800-225-7620 toll free.
      I am in the process of trying to fill out the paperwork for retiring and they want dates and places, so that is why I found this website.

    2. I also have been trying to find where my Pay'nsave retirement is. Worked in Puyalluy for 10 years. Social Security says theres a retirement out there but no one has a clue where,
      . any help greatly appreciated

    3. Have you guys tried the gubbermints Department of Labor web site?


      Especially read the sections regarding Employer Bankruptcy and Abandoned Plan Search.

  3. I can't for the life of me remember. It was so long ago.

  4. You can still find some Rite Aud stores that are for are former Pay'NSave locations still using the blue and green paint scheme. Though Rite Aid is finally remodeling many of those stores.

  5. I love Pay 'N Save! It was cheaper than Bartell's.


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