With a brass band and a benediction, the Walmart Neighborhood Market on Cherry Road opened its doors to customers Wednesday morning.
The cold weather made the parking lot icy, but that didn’t seem to affect customers who grabbed shopping carts and started walking the aisles before the grand-opening remarks were over.
“I got off work at 7 and came in for water and sodas,” said Patricia Thompson of Lancaster. “I really didn’t know it was opening today.”
“I love it. The aisles are big and they have everything I’m looking for,” Thompson said.
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Store manager Philip Cook said the variety of food items is larger than what is typically sold at a Walmart Supercenter.
The difference, Cook said, is Neighborhood Market shoppers “are not coming to do bulk shopping.” That means the store doesn’t need to stock large volumes of a specific item, such as macaroni and cheese.
Cook said he understands Rock Hill market, having been an assistant manager at the Walmart Supercenter in Newport and a resident of the city for 10 years. He started working for Walmart in his native Forest City, N.C., pushing shopping carts when he was 16.
“I thought it was a part-time job, but Walmart saw something in me,” he said. He has worked for Walmart for 23 years, 19 years in management.
The store employs about 90 people, including 61 who are new to Walmart, Cook said.
The store is approximately 41,000 square feet and has thousands of items for sale or in storage. Making sure those items are on the shelves and properly priced is the responsibility of Steve Jones, a Walmart employee for eight years and a Rock Hill resident.
“Every store is difference, every store has its challenges,” said Jones. The challenge at the Cherry Road store is the amount of storage, which is smaller than other stores. While the prices are computerized, it take employees such as Jones to make sure they are right. “There are hundreds of prices to change daily,” he said. The computerization “doesn’t take the human factor out of it.”
Cook and Jones said the neighborhood markets are the kind of store that Walmart founder Sam Walton started – stores in smaller communities that were connected to their hometowns, where “the customer is No. 1.”
At the grand opening Cook announced grants totaling $8,000 to Cheer for Children, the Children’s Attention Home, ParentSmart Family Source Center, Renew Our Community, Safe Passage and Worthy Boys and Girls Camp.
Like Walmart Supercenters, the Walmart Neighborhood Market on Cherry Road will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The opening of the Cherry Road store was one of five Neighborhood Markets announced Wednesday in South Carolina. Walmart now operates 11 Neighbhorhood Markets in the state.