In the coming months, Heritage Works will be sharing the histories of some of Dubuque’s legacy businesses. To read more about what legacy businesses are and why they are important, read our first legacy business blog here.

Read below for our next legacy business spotlight, Hartig Drug Company.

Legacy Business Spotlight: Hartig Drug Company

Hartig Drug is the second oldest family-owned pharmacy chain in the United States. The 116-year old, Dubuque-based drugstore chain got its start on Locust Street in Dubuque. 

The company’s founder, Albert J. (AJ) Hartig, worked summers and holidays at the pharmacy owned by Otto Ruete. When Ruete became ill in 1904, he asked Hartig to purchase the store at 97 Locust Street in Dubuque. Hartig was then in his last year of pharmacy school at Northwestern University. 

Hartig Drug’s first location at 97 Locust Street in Dubuque
Photo credit: Encyclopedia Dubuque

Hartig opened a second location in 1912 and hired his sister Olga, one of the first female pharmacists in Illinois to help manage the East Dubuque location in 1912. 

In 1917, a third store was opened at 630 Main Street but moved to 756 Main in 1925. The fourth Hartig store was opened in 1934 at 25th and Central. The Main Street store was moved again in 1941 to 730-736 Main. This became Dubuque’s first self-serve drug store.

Postcard showing the 730 Main Street Hartig location
Photo credit: Encyclopedia Dubuque

AJ Hartig’s son, David, entered the business in the early 1930s. Kenneth Hartig, David’s brother, joined the firm in 1940 but was then called into military service during World War II. When he returned to the United States, the two brothers assumed leadership of the company. In 1944, the store on Central was relocated to 24th and Central. Construction continued in 1951 as a new store replacing the original at 1st and Locust was opened. In 1954, the site of the old Capital Theater became the new location of the Central Street store. The 1959 Dubuque City Directory listed store locations at 2203 Central, 97 Locust, and 730 Main. The company built and opened a new store at 22nd and Central with a parking lot in 1964. 

When David retired in 1970, Kenneth took on leadership of the company and became sole owner by purchasing all the corporate stock. A new store was opened in Asbury Square Shopping Center. This was followed in 1971 with a new store at 700 Town Clock Plaza in 1971.

In 1973, Kenneth’s son, Richard (Dick) Hartig, was completing pharmacy school when Kenneth passed away unexpectedly. Though Dick hadn’t planned to return to Dubuque, upon graduating he moved back to help run the company. 

The company owned additional stores in Dubuque and Oelwein before opening a branch in Galena in 1975. The two Holscher’s Apothecary operations were purchased in 1977 and combined in 1980 to form Hartig Homecare, a home health and pharmacy, located at Kennedy Road and Pennsylvania Avenue. In 1989, the company purchased a building at 703 Town Clock Plaza and renovated it to serve as corporate offices. Throughout Dick Hartig’s tenure leading Hartig Drug Company, the organization grew from five locations to 21 community pharmacy locations. 

In 2019, Dick’s son, Charlie, was appointed CEO of Hartig Drug Company and his other son, Wes, the CEO of MedOne. Hartig operates 22 retail stores across Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin, in addition to Hartig Pharmacy Services, Finley-Hartig Homecare and MedOne. Learn more about Hartig Drug at www.hartigdrug.com.

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