Bigger Wal-mart offers more

Mom needs groceries for dinner tonight, the family van is running on empty, Joe must get a hair cut before school pictures, dad has to refill his prescription, and Erin wants a new party outfit.

This list of errands would typically take all day to complete and require running back and forth across town. That is no longer the case with the grand opening of the Wal-mart Supercenter, at 200 S. Main St.

Upon entering, this “store” seems to resemble more of a small city, complete with a full-line of groceries (including deli, bakery and produce), a hair salon, vision center, hearing center, portrait center, a pharmacy, an arcade game room and even a Subway restaurant.

“One of the things the company is always interested in is growing,” said Tom Kehres, Supercenter store manager. “Right now we’re growing with the grocery part of the business so they’re opening more and more Supercenters. That is the format we went to, going away from our general merchandise stores.”

As opposed to the 125,000 square foot former local Wal-mart, the Supercenter has a noticeably more up-scale environment and sprawls across 209,000 square feet with 27 check-out lanes.

Flat screen televisions are scattered throughout the store airing continual product advertisements and a wooden floor is found in the apparel section with a concrete floor elsewhere.

Soothing music can be also heard in the fabrics section while pop music blasts from the electronics section.

Blue-vested employees fill the store adorned with “How may I help you?” on their backs. Sale items are stacked in the center of the main aisles with signs notifying customers to “smile, you’re saving even more.”

Kehres believes the store will bring quality competition to the local market.

“Hopefully the opening of the Supercenter makes the local market more competitive because competition is always something the company welcomes,” Kehres said. “I think that competition really makes everyone better.”

The new location will bring 150 new jobs to the community, spanning across all departments. According to Kehres, the hiring process is on-going and students are encouraged to apply. Starting wages vary, depending on the level of experience the applicant has.

Kehres said he is generally happy with the feedback he has received since the store opened and people seem to be particularly excited to have groceries on the south side of town.

“I think the new store is great,” said Frank Howald, Wal-mart shopper and a native of Grand Rapids native. “It has to be 10, even 100 times better than the old store.”

Since it is such a large establishment, Kehres thinks that the Supercenter will surely have an impact on the surrounding area.

“I think we’re a positive thing for the community if you look at what we have done to this part of town already,” Kehres said. “With the new shopping center that’s going in across the street, it is all a very positive influence on the community.”