NORTH ADAMS --After nearly a year of waiting, the new Walmart Supercenter at 1415 Curran Highway opens today.
Local shoppers will be able to peruse the aisles of expanded 152,000-square-foot store following an official ribbon-cutting ceremony at 7:30 a.m.
Mayor Richard J. Alcombright will offer remarks and nine employees, all who started their careers at the original store when it opened in September 1993, will cut the ceremonial ribbon.
"We've been preparing for this day for five-and-a-half weeks," Alexis Bartos, store manager, said Tuesday during a special gathering for employees and their families, along with elected officials and special community guests.
Beginning on Thursday, the store will open at 6 a.m., an hour earlier than the previous store, which closed at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
"It's one of the things that customers came and told me they wanted," she said.
The store, which has 286 full- and part-time employees, will be open daily from 6 a.m. to midnight.
As part of Tuesday night's ceremony, Bartos presented community grants from Walmart and the Walmart Foundation to several local organizations and schools, including the North Adams Police Department K-9 unit, Hancock Elementary School, Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School, Berkshire Community Action Council (BCAC), BFAIR, Berkshire Food Project, the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition and the Drury High School Athletic Department. The grants ranged in size from $500 to $1,500.
"The store is beautiful, but I'm really impressed by Alexis," Aleta Moncecchi, BCAC director of community partnerships, said. "She's only been here nine months, but she's become really involved in the community. She's really stepped up and helped out the community. She made sure she had about 25 people from her store at our [fundraiser] run for the Louison House in April. She's a great community supporter."
Following the presentations, the invited guests and employees were the first to get a glimpse of the store, which now includes a full grocery store, vision center, hair salon, fabric department and expanded photo center.
"I think something like this is long overdue," Jennifer Bean, of Florida, said as she toured the store. "It makes this area seem a little bit bigger and a little bit more modern. As a mom, I'm really looking forward to being able to do all my shopping in one location. I can't wait until it opens."
Suzanne Thibodeau, a market human resources manger for Walmart, said supercenters allow the company to offer customers more choices, more brands and more services.
"Our full grocery includes fresh produce, seafood, meats, a self-service deli, an expanded freezer section and bakery," she said. "In our electronics department, we have a full-service photo department that can make large prints on-site in addition to offering self-service one-hour and instant photos. We've also expanded the department to include a lot of top brand names, including sales of iPads and iPods and cell phones."
Thibodeau added that the store's vision center has a certified optometrist on-staff, similar to the pharmacy, which has certified pharmacists and technicians on-staff at all times.