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'The center of Duluth' - Rexall pharmacy and grill celebrates its 40th anniversary
Rexall pharmacy and grill celebrates its 40th anniversary

DULUTH - Every Friday, Sara Jacobs has lunch with her daughters. Every Saturday, Brooks Coleman hosts a "town hall meeting" at breakfast.

And nearly every meal, Norman Barber makes a friend.

That's what goes on at Rexall, a pharmacy and grill that has been a Duluth tradition for decades.

Owner Lynda Alley will celebrate the landmark's 40th anniversary today with 40 percent off front-end merchandise, from gifts to wheelchairs, daily living aids, blood pressure kits and orthotics - and grill patrons can get a free piece of cake.

"It's a pretty amazing place," Alley said, telling a story about meeting a customer who knew about the grill when she was on vacation in Alaska.

The business began when local restaurateur Leonard Anglin's son graduated from pharmacy school. Anglin decided to open a pharmacy for his son and run a grill inside it, like a soda fountain, said Alley, who bought Rexall 10 years ago.

Even though she ran a competing drug store, she was a regular at the grill.

Now, she spends her days filling prescriptions and selling specialty medical supplies with her sister while the grill buzzes with activity every morning and afternoon. Pausing to go through the adjoining door for a bowl of chili, she's often stopped to give medical advice.

"This is the center of Duluth," she said of the grill, which was a favorite of Gov. George Busbee and is a frequent stop for famous athletes and regular citizens.

In a Duluth High School tradition, seniors come for breakfast every Friday before school.

Decorated with vintage Coca-Cola merchandise, the grill is famous for its "meat and three vegetable" options, but the customers come for favorites like the cakes, Alley said.

When the homemade chocolate fudge cake became a daily feature, Alley said her candy bar sales at the pharmacy plummeted.

"We solve most of the problems in the world here," laughed Barber, who enjoys breakfast and lunch at the grill many times a week. "If I have a problem, I can usually find someone (here) to help me."

Coleman, the chairman of the House Education Committee for the General Assembly, said he fondly remembers the original owners.

"I've been going there forever," he said. "It's a place where countless business transactions took place."

Alley said she loves that people can come in and find a friend - or make one at the long plastic tables or wooden booths, bused and served by family.

Jacobs, an 84-year-old who has come to the grill for decades, has made a regular lunch date for the past five years or so with her daughters each Friday, when the younger one can leave work early.

"I hope it never changes while I'm able to come," Jacobs said, adding that the peanut butter cake is her favorite.

"If you come here, you'll see anybody you ever knew," her daughter Barbara McMichaels said. "We'd come here every Friday to visit, even if the food wasn't so good."