Owl Rexall Drugs


Owl Rexall Drug store opened its headquarters and flagship store in 1947 at the corner of Beverly Blvd and La Cienega. President, Justin W. Dart, originally from Chicago, liked the climate in Southern California and decided to open a chain of Owl Santog Rexall stores. The particular location was the largest in So Cal. Its ultramodern 'curved' design was originally attached to the new world headquarters for United-Rexall Drug Inc. The structure is still there today.., kinda. It's now a quarter of the size. But, at the time it was considered the most glamorous pharmacy in the world which included cosmetic displays, a food counter, a separate liquor & cigar section, a candy section, and tall wooden phone booths. High end glamour at its peak. 

Here's a rare photo of the intersection at Beverly and La Cienega just before construction.  Even with Dart’s drive and Rexall’s resources, it took time to get the needed materials for such a magnificent venture in 1946. For example, the original design included 31 floor to ceiling windows! Plus a restaurant next door called, Gabe's Fountain Room

View of the completed United-Rexall HQ with the flagship Owl Rexall on the corner. 

The long, low structure was referred to as a "horizontal skyscraper". Instead of forming a 22 story tower, it spread horizontally over three acres. The ultra contemporary design originally included four patios housing a 400 seat employees' cafeteria and a 2 thousand seat banquet room for various event. Rexall's "junior pentagon" building included two miles of halls and corridors, five miles of overhead lighting, and over 800 windows comprising two acres of glass. Even before it was built, trees weighing six to eight tons a piece were transplanted into the interior of the design. 

Opening week was a star-studded ceremony to say the least. Jimmy Durante hosted a group of entertainers for one full week in celebration of its opening. Stars such as Dorothy Lamour, Mickey Rooney, Red Skelton, Bob Hope, Vic Damone, and Peter Lawford all made appearances. Hedda Hopper was there to cover it all. Over 10 thousand orchids were flown in from Hawaii and thousands of boxes of candy and toy balloons were given out to visitors of the new Rexall Drug complex. 

Vic Damone signing autographs in the Rexall parking lot

Below features historic footage near the entrance. The parking lot is very much the same today. 

Back in the early 1950's there was an extension of Kaiser Permanente in the back. (See above rendering)  There was also an oil derrick in the middle of La Cienega right below Beverly Blvd. 

Above is fantastic aerial shot of the United-Rexall headquarters showing off the world’s largest (and finest) Owl drugstore and vicinity. Beverly Park can be seen on the lower right.

The liquor/cigar section of Rexall Drugs in the 1940s. The magazines on display are September 1947 editions. They cost 10 cents, 25 cents, and 35 cents

In April 1952, Marilyn Monroe had a photo session in the Rexall parking lot for LIFE Magazine. It was quite the corner back in the day - across the street was Beverly Park, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, (up until the 70s), and the original Tail o’ the Pup, which opened a year before in 1946.

Tail O’ The Pup opening on La Cienega Blvd and Beverly Blvd (north west corner) in 1946. (AP Photo)

Steve Allen always used to get a chuckle out of the opening of the Owl Drugs radio program: "The Owl people are on the air!" He imagined a scene from a sci-fi film where one Army officer says to another, "Run for your life, Major! The Owl People are here!"

Interior of Rexall Drugs. Everything was upscale back then ..classy and elegant. It seemed society cared more about how stores were presented. 

Luckily, it was still Rexall when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s before becoming Long's and then Walgreens in the early 2000s), but it was then called Rexall Dart Square. I sold Girl Scout cookies in the parking lot and would often dream of their toy department in the back room. I spenso much time there because I was taking tap dance lessons at Al Gilbert Dance Studio just one block North. Rexall Square was also a destination after a fun day at Pony Land, just west of Beverly Park (where the Beverly Center is today). And as a teenager, this is where I bought my "choose life" (Wham) T- Shirt. I also came to Rexall Square for school supplies and to experiment and play with make up at the fancy cosmetic counters. They also had the best jawbreakers.  My parents shopped at Rexall regularly too. Dad always had REX tennis balls in his tennis bag and Mom loved the scented samples they would hand out. I think Rexall was the only drug store where you could purchase exclusive perfume only sold at Neiman Marcus, Saks 5th Ave, or Bullock"s Wilshire. I would spend HOURS there always wondering who I might bump into. Back then show-biz encounters were an every day occurrence. I remember seeing Lindsey Wagner testing lipsticks at the counter, Jacklyn Smith in the gift department, Joan Collins browsing through hair products, and Michael Landon buying cigarettes at check out. Rexall was like a source of entertainment. Later in my 20s, after a late night, I would pop by for great people watching in the wee hours of the night/morning. Today, not so much...  Although, I do see Angelyne and her pink Corvette there on occasion. 

Rexall also had one of the largest book departments in Los Angeles. Publishers used to give them books to see how many were sold in week. 

 A young girl trying on makeup at the Rexall counter in 1969. 
This was me doing the exact same thing 20 years later.

During the 1970s and 1980s it changed to "Rexall Square", the way I remember it.

Tragically, all the original features were removed when CVS & Target took over a decade ago. Even Long's and Walgreens tried to keep some of the original features. I’ll never understand why it was so severely altered to look like any other pharmacy across America when it COULD have continued to be the most glamorous drugstore in the country. CVS should have left it alone, or better yet, restored it. Sigh... Well, maybe one day the right person or company will put it all back.   

I was just here last night and actually parked in that exact spot where the white car is on the left. Even though it’s a shell of its former self, I do experience a great deal of nostalgia every time I walk through.

If anyone knows when most of original structure was demolished, please let me know in the comments section. 

-Alison Martino

Alison Martino is a writer, television producer and personality, and L.A. pop culture historian. She founded the FACEBOOK PAGE Vintage Los Angeles in 2010. In addition to writing for Los Angeles Magazine and VLA, Martino muses on L.A’s. past and present on Twitter and Instagram


  1. Love this! Thanks for sharing. I used to frequent Rexall during the early 90s. It was always the special drugstore. Really appreciate the history.

  2. It’s so sad that they changed the building so much. It definitely would have been the coolest drugstore in the country had they kept it similar to the original.

  3. Rexall was great. Now it's just another generic, bland CVS.

  4. My Mom use to work here when she came to LA in the late 40’s! LOVE this!

  5. I met Justin Dart at the Rexall Convention in St Louis about 61. He was wheelchair bound but nice

  6. Hey Allison! Love the LA stories you publish they remind me so much of my growing up there. Did you ever shop at Standard Shoes? I worked there in the early ‘70s as an inventory clerk after school and on weekends. Just across La Cienega from that marvelous building. So many great memories Beverly Park, Smokey Joe’s Their BBQ beef sandwiches so good and of course the Tail of the Pup just north. Thanks again. Jeremy G.


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