A tale of two pharmacies: CVS versus Walgreens


The CVS Pharmacy on the corner of Boylston Street and Washington Street has long been a necessity for many Emerson students. It’s a go-to drugstore and a makeshift grocery store for on-campus students not willing or able to make the trek to Shaw’s, Trader Joes, or Whole Foods, but who are in dire need of a package of toilet paper, a box of mac and cheese, or a tub of Ben and Jerry’s. 

CVS now has a new neighbor—a shiny, new Walgreens which officially opened to the public at the end of October. This rivalry has students asking: Is this town—or at least intersection—big enough for both of these pharmacies? 



631 Washington Street

Boston, MA 02111

Open daily 7 a.m. to midnight

 This CVS provides students with a one-stop shop for a pharmacy, convenience store, beauty supply counter, and photo center. College student staples like Kraft Easy Mac cups (from $1.37 single, $4.29 four-pack), laundry detergent (from $2.99), and ice cream (from $0.99) are readily available. The pharmacy offers quick pick-up and refill times for prescriptions. For students wanting to print photos for their dorms or for class, the photo center has a variety of features—including three instant printing stations, one-hour photo, and ordering options for special projects like posters, mugs, and calendars.

 CVS currently accepts ECCash at its pharmacy, photo center, and register, according to Emerson’s website. The store has also been doing some remodeling—according to sophomore Juan Sebastian Hernandez, a CVS employee—in light of the Walgreens opening, including rearranging aisles, installing a grab-and-go station with sandwiches, drinks, fruit, and assorted candy, and adding more self-checkout stations. This location, according to the store website, also plans to renovate its Photo Center to add more instant photo printing stations.



620 Washington Street

Boston, MA 02111

Open 7 a.m. to midnight

 The new Walgreens also boasts its own pharmacy, grocery center, beauty supply counter, and photo center. Items are similarly priced, within a dollar difference between the two stores. Neither store has consistently higher prices than the other. They both include the same selection of goods, including grab-and-go items and microwavable products.  

 For those who prefer human interaction at the register, Walgreens currently does not have any self-checkout stations. Instead, it has a series of five registers at the front of the store. They do have a pharmacy with all of the same amenities as CVS. The photo center has three self-serving instant printing stations, but no photo associate. Students are not able to drop off photos or order special products at this location.

Walgreens does not accept ECCash, according to Charles Freeman, an assistant manager at the store, who said he has not heard about any plans to accept the student purchasing option. 


What people are saying

If students get a late-night craving or need a product for their dorm, Freenman said he thinks people will choose Walgreens.

 “We have better customer service,” Freeman said. “Customers will come here first.”

 From the other side of the street, Hernandez said his managers are not worried about the addition of the Walgreens to the block.

 “CVS stands for the ultimate customer service experience,” said Hernandez, a visual and media arts major.

 While both stores offer generally the same product and customer experience, there are some differences. The store layouts are different. CVS has an organized format, with grocery, beauty, home goods, and pharmacy products clearly separated. Walgreens is also organized by category, but the store is not as open, with an empty white wall separating the pharmacy from the front of the store and the photo center.

The stores also differ in which products they stock, according to Aubrey Borst, a junior communication disorders major. She said she was going to start shopping at Walgreens because they carry the chewable melatonin tablets that she likes. She also wants to see what they carry, and shop accordingly.

 When it comes to choosing a store, many students said it comes down to loyalty. Charlie Greenwald, a junior communication studies major, said he was unaware that there was a new Walgreens, and he mainly shops at the CVS because he already has a CVS card. He said he would not limit himself to one store or the other.

 “I would probably also shop at Walgreens,” said Greenwald. “You can go into either to get what you need.”


Katy Rushlau, managing editor, contributed reporting to this article.