(Photo: AP)

Everywhere you go … Walgreen?

Duane Reade, Gotham’s ubiquitous hometown drugstore chain, is being swallowed up by national giant Walgreen in a $1.1 billion deal that relieves the New York company of $457 million in debt.

The takeover will quadruple the number of stores the Illinois-based Walgreen already has in the city. New York’s 257 Duane Reades will keep their name for now, but new store layouts can be expected in four or five years with still more changes expected as the brands merge.

Even though Duane Reade’s identity does not seem immediately imperiled, some customers were taken aback by the deal. “It’s disturbing. I’m sorry to hear that,” said Deborah Pheasant, 60, of Staten Island, who was shopping at the flagship Duane Reade in lower Manhattan.

The deal is expected to be complete in August but is still subject to regulatory approval. It comes as Duane Reade launched its new FlexRewards customer loyalty program and updated the logo and layouts at several locations for a more upscale look.

Duane Reade’s new campaign ironically emphasized the firm’s New York roots. The chain took it name in 1960 from the original store’s location between Duane and Reade streets.

Still, in a city where vanished drug-store names like Genovese once seemed permanent, the Duane Reade deal was not a surprise.

“I’ve lost track of the drugstores,” said Chris Connor, 42, of Bay Ridge. “I don’t know if the merger is a good or a bad thing. But when your personal pharmacist changes you lose that personal relationship.”

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Duane Reade Chairman and CEO John Lederer on Wednesday sought to reassure loyal customers. “We will continue to improve, now with the help of one of America's most trusted companies,” he said in a statement, later adding, “Rest assured that the prescriptions you have on file with Duane Reade will remain intact.”

For some customers, it’s the bottom line that matters most, and they hoped the Walgreen’s deal will mean lower prices.

“Well, if they also got sales, sounds good to me,” Williamsburg resident Martha Alvarez, 40.

(With AP)

emily.ngo@am-ny.com