You can’t have a vintage toy Dart Drug truck without also having a vintage toy Drug FAIR truck, I always say. Laurel Plaza and Montpelier Shopping Center, represent.
Photos of Laurel’s Drug Fair stores—or any in the DC metropolitan area, for that matter—have been very tough to come by. In fact, most of the Internet only seems to recall a chain of the same name based in Somerset, NJ.
But Laurel’s Drug Fair was much more likely part of an earlier, Arlington, VA-based chain. A different company altogether. According to the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, “Milton Elsberg opened a pharmacy in Arlington with Robert Gerber in 1938. By the late 1970s, Drug Fair had expanded into a regional chain of 176 stores. Many suburban stores stayed open all night—a marketing first.”
They also produced some pretty cool toys, which were built to last. At least I know that the “friction-powered” truck I found is definitely from our Drug Fair chain, if not from one of the actual Laurel stores. An unexpected surprise, it came with its original package, which included the Alexandria, VA distribution info.
I’ve come across a number of other interesting Drug Fair items on eBay, which (thankfully) I have no use for; but I’ve included them here for posterity nonetheless. As these feature an even older logo, I’m not completely sure that they’re from the Alexandria, VA chain or not; but considering the pharmacy dates back to 1938 (versus the New Jersey chain’s inception in 1954), my guess is that these are part of the same:
And speaking of logos, here are the two officially trademarked versions that I’ve been able to confirm. The first is from 1972, and the other—more recognizable to those from my generation—was filed in 1978.
I can still picture the checkout clerks sporting that second logo as a sewn patch on their smocks in the early 1980s. As I recall, Drug Fair was always a wonderful place to score the coolest school supplies. Many of my all-time favorite Trapper Keepers and NFL pencil sets were bought at the Montpelier Shopping Center Drug Fair. Fortunately, if you’re interested, such things can also still be found on eBay. Although, be sure to brace yourself for the price. This ain’t exactly Drug Fair…