Neighborhood Market is first of its kind on West Coast
by: Vern Uyetake, Last week the shelves at the new Walmart will filling up with groceries. The store will hold its grand opening tomorrow at 8 a.m.

The week before Walmart was slated to open it was all hands on deck. All the new hires were working around the clock to stock the shelves, build displays and get the store prepped for Friday's grand opening.

'It's very much a work in progress,' Jennifer Spall, Walmart director of government affairs and public relations, said last Wednesday.

'We have all built it, from the ground up,' Walmart associate Erin Gavin of Lake Oswego said.

Walmart's Neighborhood Market opening in West Linn will be the first store of its kind on the West Coast, with locations following soon in Beaverton and Lake Oswego. The store, located at 19133 Willamette Drive, fills a long-vacant space in the Robinwood Shopping Center. The location used to be a Zupan's and then a Bales Thriftway, but has been empty for a few years now.

Walmart's first Neighborhood Market opened in 1998. There are about 170 Walmart Neighborhood Market stores nationwide. They typically range in size from 30,000 to 40,000 square feet. The West Linn store is one of the smaller ones, at about 34,000 square feet.

The new store has been designed with West Linn residents in mind. The store will feature a variety of gluten-free products and locally grown and organic produce. The store will also have a larger-than-average wine selection, with an emphasis on regional wine.

'I keep hearing this is a huge wine town,' Troy Hannah, the store's manager, said.

The store has hired about 75 employees, working full and part time, and may build up to 85 employees. The store took in more than 4,000 applications, and about 80 percent of the new hires are from West Linn and surrounding communities.

Tina Piler of West Linn was hired as a claims associate after being unemployed for two years.

'Everybody is looking for a place to fit in,' she said. 'Coming here, people were really nice.'

The store also features a customer service area where customers can order something off and have it delivered directly to the store. In fact, the store already had its first customer recently when a woman had a baby crib delivered to the store before it was even open.

Hannah said he has been working with the neighboring businesses to not create competition, such as not carrying the same products as Healthy Pets and creating signage to bring customers to other stores in the area.

In addition to fresh produce, bakery and deli items, the store will carry a full line of groceries, including frozen foods, meat and dairy products. The store will also operate a pharmacy and carry health-related products. Walmart will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Walmart will hold a VIP event night tonight, and a grand-opening celebration is set for Friday at 7:30 a.m. Following a ribbon-cutting at 8 a.m., doors will open to the public.

During the grand opening ceremony, Walmart will give donations to Operation Homefront, Paws Animal Shelter, the future West Linn teen center, the West Linn Food Pantry, the West Linn Police Department and West Linn High School.

Throughout grand-opening day, the store will offer product samplings, giveaways and various entertainment events, including performances by the band and cheerleaders from West Linn High School.

The store will continue the celebration next weekend, June 2 and 3.

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