A raucous cheer was raised early Wednesday morning beneath the roof of Carson City's new Wal-Mart Supercenter, marking the mega-retailer's return to the capital city after it closed the South Carson Street store about three years ago.
"Whose Wal-Mart is this?" asked a store manager atop a podium, which was set up in front of a vacuum cleaner display and the greeting cards.
"It's our Wal-Mart!" about 250 employees replied en masse. Sticking to the retail giant's patriotic roots, the National Anthem was sung by Wal-Mart associate Shaun Gray, who perfected his voice in high school choir. It was mostly the retired crowd who made it out to the 7 a.m. grand opening, and they looked up reverently at the flag hanging beside a cash register. General Manager Scott Yoder, one of many Wal-Mart dignitaries, greeted the crowd.
"Good morning, Scott!" yelled the sea of blue-vested associates, which Wal-Mart calls its employees. They clapped, stomped their feet, pumped their fists in the air, and yelled "Teamwork!"
Yoder said 350 of the employees are new to Wal-Mart and about 50 transferred in from other area stores.
"We're proud of this store, and I think Carson City will be proud of this store also," he said, which was greeted with applause.
Inside, about 100 customers squeezed into the entryway and silently watched from behind their empty shopping carts.
"I wanted to see what this was all about," said 79-year-old retiree Bea Hudgel, who clutched a cup of McDonald's black coffee. "It's nice to have one on this side of town. I need to get more decorations for Thanksgiving, and the other one (in North Douglas County) has run out."
JJ Gordon, a state accounting clerk, scanned her shopping list, which included food items needed for her evening Bunco game. She made this a family outing with her daughter, Aletha Johnson, and husband, Clifford.
"We live right down the street so we've been watching it from day one getting built," he said.
Outside rain water glistened on the parking lot, which was about half-full by the 8 a.m. opening time.
Cars moved slowly at the new College Parkway stop light, which blinked red, matching the sunrise over the new 203,000 square-foot center. Motorists waited in a traffic jam to get to or passed the brick red and olive green supercenter.
The light at East College Parkway and Retail Drive was operating midnight Tuesday, but had an "electrical hiccup" that morning. Those driving East College Parkway reported it out as late as 1 p.m.
"That's Murphy's Law," City Engineer Larry Werner said about the unfortunate timing of the malfunction.
Sisters Susie Sedillos and Esperanza Leyba, both retired, anticipated the low prices would attract a crowd, so they came early.
"We love Wal-Mart because the prices are so much better," said Sedillos, as she pinned a free grand-opening button on her shirt. "The prices are much cheaper."
It's this "low prices everyday" business model that last year earned $10.5 billion on sales of $285 billion.
"When we open a store for you we promise that we'll have what you want, when you want it, for a low price," said District Manager David Pressly at the grand-opening ceremony. He encouraged the associates to look at this as a career and to take advantage of all the benefits.
The opening of Carson City's Wal-Mart comes on the same day the New York Times' ran a story on an internal memo to the company's board of directors which proposed limits to health- care spending. The memo was the result of an internal study on how to save money at a time when health-care costs are soaring.
The memo was first leaked to the paper from the Wal-Mart Watch nonprofit group, which is allied with labor unions. The Times reported that the memo recommended hiring more part-time workers and wooing younger, healthier associates.
Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Fogleman said the memo is a discussion item. A company statement said these changes are all improvements and many of them will be implemented by next year. One of the changes is to begin a pre-tax health savings account.
According to the company, the majority of the jobs at the Carson City store are full-time. The average wage for full-time hourly Nevada associates is $10.23. Benefits are available to part-time and full-time employees and premiums begin at about $40 a month for an individual.
This is what attracted 18-year-old full-time cashier Michelle Bracht to Wal-Mart. A few minutes after 8 a.m. she had already had about six customers through her register.
"After 90 days, you get 401(k) and insurance, and most kids don't even have all that," she said.
Those worldly concerns mean little to 13-year-old David Kelley, who found his way to the electronics department after the Carson High School Jazz Band gig for the grand opening.
"It's nice because I get to skip first period," the electric bass player said, eyes glued to the video game screen above him as he worked the controls.
"This is a XBox360, and I heard it isn't even coming out until next month," said David.
n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at email@example.com or 881-1212.
How do I get to the new Wal-Mart?
From East College Parkway turn right at the new signal, Retail Road, to get into the Wal-Mart parking lot.
Or travel farther down to Market Street, and take a right.
There is no other way to get into the Wal-Mart, which is at 3200 Market St.
A new intersection will be constructed at Roop and Hot Springs streets within the next few months. That will also give customers access to the Wal-Mart parking lot from the southwest.
Source: Carson City
Engineer Larry Werner