Saturday, October 18, 2003

Wal-Mart Dixon store slated to open later this month

October 18, 2003
Readying for Retail
Wal-Mart Dixon store slated to open later this month

Tod Rasmussen/The Reporter

Electrician Alan Buchanan of Sacramento takes a break from working on Dixon's new Wal-Mart, which is slated to open later this month.

By Mary Lynch/Reporter Staff

Call it done.

Dixon's own Wal-Mart is just two weeks away from its grand opening, according to a company spokesman.

The discount retailer's 118,000 square-foot "big box," sitting on 24 acres on Dorset Drive and Highway 113 off Interstate 80, will open its doors for business on Oct. 29 at 9 a.m.

Only a delay in connecting to electrical service could push opening day back to Oct. 31, city officials said.

Since the completion of construction in mid-September, Wal-Mart employees have been busy stocking the shelves.

The store's design follows the traditional Wal-Mart format, offering the familiar array of general merchandise including clothing, electronics, automotive supplies and health and beauty products.

It will not be a "Supercenter" - a 24-hour Wal-Mart store that includes a full service grocery section, a hair salon, a bank and other services - yet.

"There are no plans at this time to become a supercenter," confirmed Amy Hill, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman.

The city-approved design accommodates expansion up to 204,000 square feet, however.

"We don't know if they'll open a supercenter," said Stephen Streeter, Dixon's director of community development. "They were given permission to expand, but we don't know the timetable. It depends on how they do."

Though the store currently stands alone on its acreage, expect to see other retailers crop up on it. Wal-Mart has set aside construction pads to lease to other businesses. The city has already received applications for those sites from a Wendy's restaurant, a bank, and a gas station, according to Streeter.

Wal-Mart does not have plans currently to install its own gas pumps.

The retailer said the new store will create some 200 jobs in Dixon. The on-going hiring campaign, Hill said, is seeing a strong response from the community.

The opening closes a development trajectory whose first point was plotted when the Dixon City Council approved the project last summer. Ground was broken on the site in May, and construction went on full-swing all summer long.

From the beginning, the prospect of Wal-Mart's arrival in Dixon has met with some trepidation among local business owners and residents.

Many voiced fears that Wal-Mart would doom business activity in historic downtown Dixon and threaten the viability of area small businesses.

Fifth-generation Dixonite Caitlin O'Halloran expressed disappointment over the presence of Wal-Mart in her hometown.

"I didn't expect my hometown to be seduced by the Siren Song of cheap imported goods sold by a company whose jobs don't pay a living wage," said O'Halloran, who aired her views in a statement read on Sacramento's Capitol Public Radio last week. "We'd worked to rebuild our downtown, but statistics show that three local jobs are destroyed for every two new jobs at Wal-Mart."

But city leaders argue that that Wal-Mart will stimulate the local economy, not depress it.

"The general development of retail is very much a part of all of our lives," Salmon said earlier this year. "We consume, we buy stuff. The object is to do a better job providing those services within our community. When a commute to another city is necessary to go to Wal-Mart, we add to congestion and pollution, and we also shift tax revenue to another city."

Wal-Mart maintains that the customer base in Dixon is significant enough that the big box retailer can co-exist with smaller businesses.

The hope is that Wal-Mart will lure traffic headed for San Francisco, Sacramento and Davis off Interstate 80 into Dixon, spurring new interest and activity in the area and expanding retail opportunities.

Members of the local business community, while wary, have given Wal-Mart credit for working closely with the community, and supporting downtown revitalization efforts with its agreement to include directions to downtown Dixon in its signage.

Although a permanent sign may not be up by the time of the official store opening, members of the Downtown Dixon Business Association are asking Wal-Mart to post some temporary signage directing visitors to the heart of Dixon.

"Anything we can get out there that points to our historic downtown, we'll take," said Salaber. "We're banking on the fact that they'll bring new people to town - from Davis, for example - who don't know that there's a downtown Dixon."

As chairwoman of the association's design committee, Salaber worked with Wal-Mart officials on adapting the appearance of the store to reflect Dixon's agricultural heritage.

Her committee ultimately persuaded Wal-Mart to replace the generic big-box look with a Victorian barn design.

"They have been quite easy to work with," said Salaber.

Mary Lynch can be reached at

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