By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN, Times-Herald staff writer
Vallejo's new Kohl's Department Store opens Thursday, along with 11 others in the Bay Area, as the Midwest-based retail giant drives full-tilt into the California market.
Kohl's regional manager Mike McMullan said the Bay Area stores are coming on line about 18 months after the chain opened 28 stores in Southern California.
The Bay Area openings bring the number of Kohl's in California to 62. McMullan will oversee six of them, including the ones in Vallejo and Vacaville.
"I'm looking forward to it being there," said Vallejoan Sandy McCulley, 61. "I'm hoping it carries a better quality of merchandise than a lot of the stores in Vallejo."
Tim O'Conner of Vallejo also welcomes the new shopping option with open arms. "I'm happy to see some new businesses opening up here in Vallejo," said the 45-year-old technician and stage hand for the musical group The Doobie Brothers. "There's a real need for quality businesses like Kohl's here. Vallejo is changing from a blue-collar, Navy town to a more middle and upper-middle class kind of town. And those of us who came from other parts of the Bay Area are hungry for quality shops and restaurants."
McCulley, a retired Pacific Bell clerk, said she'd never heard of Kohl's before ads began appearing on television a few months ago. O'Conner, on the other hand, has been in a Kohl's store and approves of the inventory.
"I travel around a lot, and I've seen Kohl's in other parts of the country, and it's a decent store," O'Conner said. "They carry all the name brands. I think it's a good fit for Vallejo. My wife and I are happy to see quality businesses emerging in Vallejo. We don't want to have to travel to Benicia or Concord every time we want stuff."
It's just the kind of response Kohl's officials like to hear.
A former Target manager, McMullan said Kohl's hired him to help get its California operation off the ground.
"The strategy has been to hire people who understand the local markets," said McMullan, who lives in Los Angeles, though his first California home was in Vallejo some 20 years ago. He managed the Vallejo Target store for several years, he said.
The Vallejo Kohl's differs from most of the company's other locations in that it's a two-story structure. It offers about 92 square feet of retail space built on the spot once occupied by the Gateway Plaza's Century 8 domed theaters, McMullan said.
"Our philosophy is to provide convenient locations - you don't see us much in big malls - and we have wide aisles and centralized check-out, so you don't have to hunt for some place to pay for your merchandise," he said.
Another difference between Kohl's and other department stores, he said, is that about 70 percent of its merchandise consists of recognizable, brand-name items. These include Levis, Gloria Vanderbilt, Arrow, Haggar, Dockers, Reebok, Nike, Adidas, OshKosh B'Gosh and Carter's in its apparel departments, and Calphalon, KitchenAid and Martex in its home department. Kohl's is also known for its shopping carts that double as strollers.
McMullan said Kohl's is dedicated to community involvement wherever it operates stores, and Vallejo will be no exception.
"We have our Kohl's Cares for Kids promotion, by which the sale of certain children's merchandise generates a donation to Stanford's Lucille Packard Children's Hospital and Oakland's Children's Hospital and Research Center. Also, each store is encouraged to provide associates time to volunteer for local school reading programs, and we're always very active in local soccer programs."
The Vallejo store created about 220 jobs, 95 percent of which are filled by local residents, McMullan said.
McMullan said Vallejo was an easy choice to put a store. "When you look at Vallejo, you see it's a community of families, and we look for that, and the location makes sense," McMullan said.
The grand opening events, which will take place simultaneously at all the new stores, begin at 8 a.m. Thursday. A highlight will be a sweepstakes featuring prizes that include a Chevy Equinox sport utility vehicle, educational scholarships and vacations. Also, the first 800 shoppers 16 and older will get free tote bags.
- For more information, call 649-9851 or visit http://www.kohls.com
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