Rifle Wal-Mart opens with a bang
Post Independent Staff
Yes, the Rifle Wal-Mart grand opening Wednesday started at 7:30 a.m. with store associates giving a hand-clapping, foot-stomping, company cheer.
“That’s our standard store greeting,” store manager Will Erickson told the startled crowd. “Don’t be afraid. We won’t hurt you.”
As the ceremony commenced in front of the store, a line was already forming 50 yards down at the main doors, which wouldn’t open until 8 a.m.
By 9:30 a.m., 14 of the store’s 15 cash registers were beeping like out-of-control video games, and check-out lines were backed up five and six shopping carts deep.
Rifle resident Kim Sharpe was one of those early shoppers who wheeled out a cart full of goods, leaving behind scores of other happy shoppers to follow behind.
“I’ve got everything, all types of groceries,” Sharpe said. “Fresh produce, dairy products, shoes, auto supplies. More than I can tell you. There were a lot of impulse purchases. There is so much selection. This is great.”
The first thing shoppers notice when they pull into the Wal-Mart parking lot is the “Always Low Prices” motto in gigantic, red letters, dead ahead over the store’s southwest doors.
For Wednesday’s opening, store associates ” Wal-Mart’s term for store workers ” corporate executives, community members and a town official sat on a flat-bed trailer and addressed the crowd, estimated at 200 to 300.
The ceremony started with the Rifle High School band playing drum-driven fight songs as the crowd filed in, followed by the national anthem and “America the Beautiful.”
The ceremony concluded with regional vice-president Bob Erickson of Denver addressing the dozens of Wal-Mart associates who gathered outside.
Erickson, the father of store manager Will, complimented the staff for raising $22,000 for 19 Rifle area civic organizations, then urged them to also donate their talents to the community.
“Will you do that for me?” he asked.
Erickson then told the crew they should strive to make the store the cleanest on the Western Slope, and remember that customer service is important.
“Smile at the customers, and give them a sincere ‘Thank you,'” Erickson said.
He reminded the staff the new store was expensive to build, and it costs a lot to keep it running.
“We need a lot of business to make this work,” Erickson said. “Let’s work hard to appreciate the customer.”
A handful of folks watched the ceremony from a line in front of the southwest doors, waiting for them to swing open.
“I came in from Craig for this,” said Monte Ages, the first shopper in line.
Ages, 51, said he planned to buy a television and maybe some Christmas gifts.
“I love the store,” Ages said. “The prices and variety of stuff, and there’s usually plenty of it.”
The first rush of customers flooded through both the entrance and exit doors, which associates opened seconds after the ceremony concluded. One of the first things shoppers saw was a banana display just inside the store, and the advertised price of 48 cents per pound. Within minutes, a worker dropped the price to 42 cents, and later to 40 cents.
Rifle City Councilman Jeff Johnson, who attended the opening ceremony, is believed to have been the first customer to make a purchase.
“I went in, found what I needed, and came back,” Johnson said. “I bought vacuum bags. I was on a mission from my wife.”
The 142,000-square-foot Wal-Mart is a Super Center, and offers groceries, haircuts, eye glasses and photo processing, besides general merchandise such as shotguns, Q-tips, paint and wall clocks.
Pallet stacks of Gatorade, Tostito chips, caramel popcorn, party mix, Nestle bottled water, Green Giant French style beans, crackers, detergent and Michelob beer stand as a walk-through buffer between the grocery area and the rest of the store. A men’s underwear display stands a few feet from the canned meat section.
Ceiling mounted Wal-Mart network television sets broadcast a rapid succession of commercials throughout the store. One grocery department TV set hovers over the Stewart Cream Soda, and the programming rotation includes pitches for Veterans Day photo processing, the soon-to-be released video game Project Gothic, and a cameo appearance of Renee Zellweger hyping the DVD “Down With Time.”
At the opposite corner of the store Wednesday, Silt resident Christine Barnes was shopping for Halloween costumes and supplies for her sons Jake, 4, and Alfonso, 5.
“They don’t have any, though,” Barnes said. “I was told it’s too close to the holiday.”
Lack of Halloween products didn’t deter Jake and Alfonso. They were scoping out the kid’s bike display, which consisted of three rows of 30 bikes each, stacked from the floor halfway to the ceiling.
“He wants a big bike for Christmas,” Barnes said, referring to Alfonso.
Barnes likes the Rifle Wal-Mart because of its low prices and selection. “And now I don’t have to drive to Grand Junction,” she said.
During the opening ceremony, manager Erickson said the store carries 90,000 items, and for the opening it had all but 139 of them. Those 90,000 items include:
– Wrangler Hero stain blocker pleated khaki pants for $14.97.
– Life jockey briefs, pack of three for $5.46.
– 47-inch high definition Panasonic television for $1,284.
– 10-inch yucca house plant for $8.97.
– Blaze orange Remington field shirt, bright enough to blind a welder, for $18.88.
– Eight-foot Stanley stepladder, with a 250-pound capacity, for $89.96.
– Professional duct tape, 66-yards for $3.96.
Rifle resident Melissa McMinn pushed a shopping cart filled with two house plants, fuel stove pellets and a computer printer through the hardware section Wednesday. The printer, $28, was an impulse purchase.
“It’s an HP,” she boasted.
Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534
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