The wait's nearly over.
After more than a year of shifting store merchandise and non-stop construction, Walmart will begin inviting shoppers into its newly expanded store on Wednesday.
The expansion adds nearly 100,000 square feet to the Crescent City Walmart, said store manager Nick Gonnella. The new Walmart Supercenter will include a full grocery store with a deli and a bakery as well as produce, meat and dairy departments. The newly remodeled store will also include a hair salon, a Subway and a new Java Hut, Gonnella said.
"We're one of the largest expansions square footage-wise in all of California," he said. "We started as a pretty small Walmart store and to grow by 100,000 square feet was no easy task. It was definitely a difficult task that took a little over a year to complete."
Walmart began preparing for the expansion in January 2011, when it extended its store hours to 24 hours a day. The store opened in 1992.
To prepare for the store expansion, Walmart has hired between 60 to 80 employees, Gonnella said. The store is still looking for another 30 to 40 more employees.
"It's going to be an ongoing process from this point forward," Gonnella said, adding that the store is also preparing for the holiday season. "As we have expanded, it's been difficult to keep up with the amount of people we need to hire. Especially in the food area of our store."
The grand opening of Walmart will also be the grand opening of the new Java Hut Express. Sisters and store owners Adrienne Anthony and Marianne Shannon are also in the process of hiring new employees.
"We're going to need more people," Anthony said. "We've been really busy. We're not sure two people at a time is going to be enough for the traffic we're anticipating at the Walmart location."
Gonnella said Walmart had been looking for a coffee vendor to set up shop in its leased area alongside the hair salon and Subway. Java Hut was the only one that responded, he said. Gonnella added that the Crescent City Walmart will be one of the only stores to feature a locally owned business in its leased areas.
To prepare for the expansion, Anthony and Shannon hired an attorney who helped them establish a limited liability company. Because Walmart wanted the businesses brought into the supercenter to be distinct from their roadside counterparts and because this Java Hut will not have a drive-thru, Anthony and Shannon said they are naming the store Java Hut Express LLC.
The menu at Java Hut Express will mirror its shops at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds and in Smith River, Shannon said. This includes Java Hut's offering of baked goods from Vita Cucina and Bakery By the Sea in Brookings, Ore.
"It looks like Walmart was the right decision for us," said Shannon, who recently moved to Crescent City from Valencia, Calif.
To celebrate the opening of its expanded store, Walmart will hold a ceremony featuring an opening prayer, the national anthem sung by local musician Scott Perry and a flag ceremony featuring the Crescent City Boy Scout Troop No. 77.
Board of Supervisors Chair Michael Sullivan will be the featured guest speaker, and there will be special guest appearances by the Bimbo Bread Bear and Franz Super Slice.
Java Hut Express will be holding its own grand opening ceremony, featuring drawings for mugs and coffee as well as free drink and pastry samples, Shannon said.
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