NORTH ADAMS -- Lifelong city resident Shirley Davis was one of the first to arrive outside the Walmart Supercenter at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, waiting in anticipation of the 152,000-square-foot store's grand opening.
"I'm planning to spend about two hours shopping," she said, pulling out a shopping list. "I was at the grand opening of the other store in 1993. I just love all of the excitement."
By the time the store at 1415 Curran Highway opened at 7:30 a.m., dozens of eager shoppers had crowded outside the main doors. But before they could disperse into the store, a short ribbon-cutting ceremony was held.
As per Wal-Mart tradition, a short blessing for "the store, its employees and all who enter" was offered by the Rev. David Anderson, pastor of the First Baptist Church.
"We gather today as a city, as a community ready to celebrate and embrace this special event and what it will mean for our city," he said. "We pray that as this new store becomes a thriving business, that Walmart continues to become a good neighbor in our community -- connecting with families, helping groups and organizations further their causes and assisting those of us who work in the community help those who are most in need."
Steadroy Bradshaw, a Northampton employee, sang "The Star Spangled Banner," while a color guard made up of North Adams Police officers stood by.
Mayor Richard J. Alcombright greeted the crowd with a hearty "Welcome to Walmart" before speaking about the importance of the new supercenter, which recently added 85 full- and part-time jobs to its roster. The store now employs 286.
"This is a very special day for North Adams and the greater Northern Berkshire area, as we open this super store," he said. "When we look at the opportunities this store is bringing to our community and our greater community, it's not only the product they bring and the price points they bring to our residents, but also the nearly 100 new jobs or so that they bring. ... I'd like to thank store manager Alexis [Bartos] for getting this store off the ground a month early. I want to thank Wal-mart for having the faith and confidence in North Adams and the greater region to invest in this facility."
Before officially welcoming shoppers, nine 20-year employees gathered around a ceremonial blue ribbon, which was cut by store greeter Carol Filiault.
As customers streamed into the aisles, many gasped in surprise of the store, which includes a 1,400-square-foot Dunkin Donuts, a hair salon, vision center, pharmacy and full grocery store in addition to its general merchandise sections.
"Wow is all I can say," Davis said as she pushed a cart through the store's new bakery section.
Many shoppers were delighted to find an expanded craft section and a fabric section.
"I came in today because I heard the new store had a fabric department again," Linda Bell, of Williamstown, said. "I live in The Spruces and have a combination kitchen and living room. I've never been happy with my curtains, so I came in for some fabric. I've put off making curtains, because Pittsfield is just too far to travel for fabric. I know a lot of people are excited about the fabric department returning."
Donna Gessing and Ana Gentes, of Florida, who were spending part of their day off from work shopping at the store, expressed similar delight.
"We're avid crafters," Gentes said. "We do a lot of crafting and we have to run to Pittsfield all the time for fabric and supplies."
Gessing added, "To do that, you have to plan a trip to Pittsfield. It's a 55-minute ride for us just to go to Joanne's Fabrics. We're going to save on gas and time. The prices here are great too."
The friends also agreed that the expansion of the store's food department into a full grocery store was an attraction.
"This new supercenter is great," Gentes said. "It's very family-oriented -- you can get everything you need in one place."
Gessing added, "I love the new grocery section. It's going to make a difference. We've already noticed some of the other markets in the area come down on their prices."
The previous store, at 830 Curran Highway, closed at 2 p.m. on Tuesday and is currently for sale.
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, email