USA Drug icon Stephen LaFrance passes away

Stephen LaFrance, former owner of USA Drug, passed away unexpectedly last month. LaFrance was 71.

LaFrance is credited with having built a multimillion dollar pharmacy enterprise from just $26 in start-up cash — the Stephen L. LaFrance Pharmacy, predecessor to USA Drug, first opened in February 1968 — to a thriving business with 144 locations on the home turf of Walmart. The first USA Drug store opened its doors in 1984. At the time Walgreens acquired USA Drug in 2011, the proud regional chain had ranked No. 31 on the DSN PoweRx 50, with projected pharmacy sales of approximately $409 million.

"Steve always focused on two things: 'Take care of your customers' and 'treat your employees right,'" Joe Courtright, former USA Drug president and CEO, shared with DSN. "His motto was 'do the right thing.' And those were certainly words he lived by. He was beloved by his employees."

LaFrance is survived by his wife of 44 years, Linda, sons Stephen Jr. and Jason, daughter Amy and seven grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to the First United Methodist Church of Pine Bluff, P.O. Box 8003, Pine Bluff, Ark., 71611.

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