Hundreds of people lined up on Sept. 18 for a 'sneak peek' at the brand new Save-A-Lot grocery store at 6100 SE King Road in Milwaukie. The parking lot of the former Sentry grocery store was awash in eager neighbors, who had received postcards telling them of the event.

Deborah Theisen and her mother-in-law, Margaret Theisen, waited patiently in line outside the store, just before the opening at 5 p.m., as sprinkles fell and Save-A-Lot employees circulated with goodies on trays.

'We have been watching this store be empty, and we were so disappointed when Sentry closed. I've been looking forward to this store opening - I have five kids, and when I need to buy milk I hate going to a convenience store,' Deborah Theisen said.

She added, 'The flyer said [there would be a] party - so that's why we're here.'

Both women live in the King Road-area neighborhood, as did most of the other people waiting in line that night.

Once inside, visitors found that the store was not open for business, but was functioning truly as an open house.

The Swingline Cubs, a local band, played a smooth jazzy beat in the produce department amongst the potatoes and onions, while store employees handed out samples of barbequed chicken, salmon, pizza, grapes and veggies - the longest line was for cookies and ice cream.

The first 300 people through the door were given canvas shopping bags, and visitors were encouraged to roam throughout the store and chat with managers.

Bill Shaner, the CEO of the Save-A-Lot parent company, officially opened the event, once most people were inside. He introduced Milwaukie Mayor Jim Bernard, City Council Members Carlotta Collette and Debra Barnes.

Shaner noted that for every person in attendance that night, the store would donate $5 to the Milwaukie Center's Meals on Wheels program.

Don Wiley, nutrition coordinator at the center, was on hand to thank Shaner for Save-a-Lot's support of the program, and noted that the center provided 67,000 meals last year.

Shaner, who is based out of St. Louis, Mo., was in town for the opening of the King Road store as well as the one at 6828 SE Foster Road in Portland.

He said, 'We want people to know this is a nationally operated store - we have nearly 12,000 stores in 40 states-but this store is owned and operated by folks who live in the area.'

Shaner added, 'This is our first store in the Pacific Northwest - we're thrilled to be here.'

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