University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business

Stephen L. LaFrance, Sr.


Stephen L. LaFrance, Sr.

(1941 - 2013)
USA Drug
Pine Bluff, Arkansas


Twenty-six dollars went a lot farther in 1968 than it does today. Even then, that was a small amount for a business to take in on a single day. But $26 is exactly what Stephen L. LaFrance, Sr., put in the cash register on his first day in business at the pharmacy at Gibson’s Department Store in Pine Bluff.

From that rather modest beginning, LaFrance built that single drug store into USA Drug, which grew to be the largest privately owned chain of drugstores in the United States.

USA Drug covered nine states and more than 150 locations with over $825 million in annual sales. SAJ Distributors, a wholesale drug distribution operation also owned and operated by LaFrance Holdings, regularly served more than 1,200 customers in 14 states in addition to USA Drug’s own retail drug stores. LaFrance Holdings had expanded to include a real estate portfolio with strategically located retail properties. In total, it was an Arkansas organization supporting more than 3,500 employees and their families. In 2012, shortly before LaFrance died, Walgreens acquired USA Drug for more than $550 million.

All from a $26 opening day in Pine Bluff.

LaFrance was born in New Orleans. He earned a bachelor of science in pharmacy degree from Northeast Louisiana State College in Monroe. He preferred his philanthropic efforts to be anonymous. The Salvation Army, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the Arkansas Children’s Hospital and work on diabetes research at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences were just some of the projects that enjoyed his support.


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