Shop 'Til You Drop
Despite Long Battle, Shoppers Swarm Hard-Won Wal-Mart Supercenter
By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN/Times-Herald staff writer
Vallejo Times Herald
American Canyon Wal-Mart Supercenter store manager Mike Sellick cuts the ceremonial ribbon at the grand opening of the store on Wednesday. (J.L. Sousa/Times-Herald)
AMERICAN CANYON - There was joy in the Napa Junction parking lot Wednesday as the new, hard-won Wal-Mart Supercenter opened for business.
"We're thrilled. It's been quite a battle," said Pam Wilkinson, American Canyon Chamber of Commerce president.
Several hundred Wal-Mart employees, officials, shoppers and others braved the early morning chill for speeches, thanks and congratulations, before being allowed in for a peek.
The 173,000-square-foot stone and stucco-faced structure, includes a full grocery department, including bakery, produce and meat sections, as well as wine and liquor, home and apparel products, jewelry, shoes, electronics and general merchandise. The 24-hour store also contains nail and hair salons, a vision center, a McDonald's restaurant and a bank, as well as a delicatessen with a sushi bar and a lawn and garden center.
"To be opening the 30th Supercenter in California and the first in the region is exciting," marketing manager Mike Hedges said. Supercenter No. 31 also opened Wednesday, in Lancaster, added regional manager Henry Jordan. Wal-Mart serves about 6.5 million California customers weekly, he said.
Mayor Leon Garcia called it "an exciting day that was a long time coming."
More than two years of political and legal wrangling with Wal-Mart opponents delayed the store's completion, but a final ruling in May cleared the way for Wednesday's grand opening.
The new store replaces Vallejo's Wal-Mart, which closed Tuesday.
Wal-Mart's Supercenter is expected to generate about $600,000 in annual sales tax revenue for American Canyon, said city finance director Barry Whitley.
The new building was designed to reflect the region's railroad history and its proximity to the Napa Valley, Jordan said. Its numerous skylights and automatically dimming overhead lights help reduce energy
consumption and are a particular source of pride, said store manager Mike Sellick, a former Vallejo Wal-Mart manager. He and other Wal-Mart officials noted the floors are made from low-maintenance concrete which requires no special chemicals to clean.
Many of Wednesday's Wal-Mart shoppers said they were just glad it's finally open.
"I love to shop at Wal-Mart," said Joann Alcantara of Vallejo. "It would have been nice to have it in Vallejo, but American Canyon is still close enough."
Eager to peruse the new store's camera equipment, American Canyon residents and bus drivers Harold and Kristina Jones said they're hoping the new giant retail outlet will help thin out the congestion at the nearby Safeway supermarket.
"I get groceries at the Safeway, and they got 20 people in line, no matter what time you go," he said. "And the prices are lower here."
Wal-Mart officials still hope to build a Supercenter in Vallejo's long-vacant White Slough area on Sonoma Boulevard where the Kmart Store once stood, but they face fierce opposition. Many of those opposed to the plan say the "ecologically sensitive" wetlands site isn't suitable for a so-called big-box store.
"I'm hugely disappointed that Wal-Mart was able to shove this down the people of American Canyon's throat," said Joe Feller of Wal-Mart opposition group, Vallejoans for Responsible Growth. "Now they're going to be stuck with a huge bill for widening Highway 29 to accommodate Wal-Mart traffic. It's insane, and I'm glad I don't live in American Canyon because of it."
Feller vows to continue fighting against a Vallejo Supercenter though company officials say they're equally determined to see it developed.
The Vallejo project is "still at the beginning stages," with the city having recently found consultants to produce an environmental review, spokesman Kevin Loscotoff said. The EIR could take up to 16 months to complete, he said. But Wal-Mart is looking no where else in Vallejo, Loscotoff added.
"We're focused squarely on the White Slough project," he said.
AmCan Wal-Mart 7011 N. Main St.
• Sustainable design elements
• 80,000-square-foot grocery department
• Expanded electronics department
• Expanded lawn and garden center
• 24-hour shopping
• 27 full-service, check-out lanes, eight of them express lanes
• Vision center
• One-hour photo lab
• Wireless phone center
• "Family Fun Center"
E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at RachelZ@thnewsnet.com or call 553-6824.
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