Opening of Civic Drugs

The Beginning of Something Big

After graduating from Wayne State University, Eugene went to work as a pharmacist for Sam Pearlstein at Merrill Drugs, and loved it. Gene recalled how pleased he was to be working in the pharmacy business:

“I was working at Merrill Drugs at Puritan and Greenfield and I was making $200 a week, I thought it was very big money.”

The Opening of Civic Drugs 

In 1963, Gene opened his first store at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Greenfield in Dearborn, Michigan. "I opened it just a few days before President Kennedy was shot," Gene recounted. "I called it Civic Drugs because it was right across the street from Dearborn Civic Center."

“All the major Detroit drugstore chains turned down that location because it was too close to a viaduct at the corner of Greenfield, but a realtor convinced me to take it; not too smart on my part," Gene said.

Eugene Driker commented on Gene’s fearlessness “A gutsy move …I mean, how many recent graduates of pharmacy school would walk outside and say, ‘I am going to open a drug store?' He was willing to take risks that more timid people wouldn’t take. He was fearless.”

The Success of Civic Drugs 

Before long, Civic Drugs was filling 90-100 prescriptions a day and doing well in sales of traditional drugstore items. Being so close to Ford Motor Company’s World Headquarters, employees darted in and out of Civic Drugs on their breaks buying their drugstore needs. The pharmacy was always busy as Gene recalled “I couldn’t even leave the place during store hours because there was only one pharmacist on duty (me).” Gene had credited the wonderful people of the Dearborn neighborhood for the store's success:

"My philosophy was to always play to the people of the nearby neighborhoods; they’ll be your best customers…their nickels and dimes made the store a success.”
Opening of Civic BG
Opening of Civic
Opening of Civic
Opening of Civic

One of Gene’s earliest employees, recalled the early days at Civic:

“He always had his white jacket on in those days, and he’d hop out from that pharmacy counter in a second and deal with whatever concerns the customer had. If someone had a problem and you make a refund with a frown and a bad attitude, that doesn’t do you any good. He would go out and give ‘em a refund and a pat on the back and say ‘if you don’t like it, bring it back again.’”

Gene worked in that first store from morning until night. He paid attention and listened to his customers and his employees. Gene had phenomenal instincts about what people wanted and he gave it to them. “My dad used to come to the store, and he would go up to each employee and say, ‘Is he treating you right?’ ‘Is he paying you enough?’ My dad was a character,” Gene said.

From Civic to Arbor Drugs

Civic Drugs quickly became a powerhouse and Gene was living the American dream. After the first store, Gene began to expand. In 1974 he brought together six stores in the metro Detroit area, including his original Civic Drugs, to form the iconic Arbor Drugs.

Back to Top


Applebaum Family Office

480 Pierce Street, Suite 200

Birmingham, MI 483009

Applebaum Family Philanthropy

Andrew Echt

Director, Applebaum Family Philanthropy