A replica of a 1-year-old woolly mammoth named Tunguska stands at the Arizona Geological Survey Map and Bookstore.


Some commercial properties change names and tenants so fast that it's hard to keep up. What is a clothing store one day might be a vacuum cleaner repair shop the next.

But for many longtime Tucsonans, the building on the northeast corner of East Fifth Street and North Craycroft Road will always be known as Star Drug.

It's now the home of a civil and structural engineering firm. But for more than 40 years, the 10,000-square-foot building was part of a local chain of drugstores that popped up throughout Tucson between 1953 and 1986.

Of those stores, however, Star Drug might have been the most well-known because of its trademark star perched on a pole on the roof next to its drive-through window.

"That was probably Bob Jensen's idea," retired pharmacist Marty Ronstadt said about one of the co-owners of Defender Drug Stores, of which Star Drug was a part. "He was a very innovative guy."

The star is still there, as is the drive-through bay and a marquee sign on the corner that marks the location of the long-gone Burcham Plaza, which that shopping center was once called.

"We like having that star up there," said Marcia Grenier, co-owner of Grenier Engineering, which has occupied the building since 2007. "It's like a landmark. We've had offers from people wanting to buy it, but we've said, 'No thanks.' "

Jensen, according to his obituary that ran in the Arizona Daily Star in 2002, and partner Lyle Crandall at one time owned nine stores in the Defender chain. The two men eventually sold the stores in 1987 to SupeRX Drug Co., which eventually passed the stores on to other owners.

Star Drug's location was last a pharmacy in the early 2000s, when it was an Osco, according to city business records. That drugstore eventually moved a few miles west to Fifth Street and Alvernon Way, where it is now a CVS.

Grenier said the building housed a thrift store before she and her husband bought it in November 2006.

Despite the changes, she said, some people still stop by looking for the medical equipment that Star Drug was known for. "I remember one guy," Grenier said, "came in looking for a wheelchair."

Contact reporter Brian J. Pedersen at bjp@azstarnet.com or call 573-4224.

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Call the Star newsroom at 573-4142 or send an e-mail to metro@azstarnet.com