New Walmart Supercenter opens to crowd, especially in gun department


Walmart Supercenter associates cheer during the grand opening of the Walmart Supercenter in northwest Gainesville Friday.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, February 1, 2013 at 12:39 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 1, 2013 at 12:39 p.m.

The store number remains the same, and about 200 employees have transferred, but everything else is new as the Walmart on Northwest 13th Street closed at 6 p.m. Thursday and "relocated" to a new Supercenter about 2 miles to the north.

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Walmart Supercenter associates cheer during the grand opening of the Walmart Supercenter in northwest Gainesville Friday.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun

Walmart Supercenter No. 538 opened around 8 a.m. Friday after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 5700 NW 23rd St., off Northwest 34th Street near U.S. 441, and will henceforth be open 24/7.

The original No. 538 — Gainesville's first Walmart — opened in 1983 in a 103,000-square-foot space at 2649 NW 13th St. The new store is a 170,200-square-foot Supercenter, meaning it has a full line of groceries in addition to more than 30 general-merchandise departments.

The new store also has a Subway restaurant, a Da Vi Nail salon, SmartStyle family hair salon, a game arcade and a garden center. It does not include a gas station.

More than 100 customers waited in the cold during Friday's ribbon-cutting ceremony. A sizeable number of customers, including several people wearing camouflage jackets, were there to buy ammunition from the store's sporting goods department.

A Walmart employee gave out numbered tickets for the sporting goods department, and customers were limited to three boxes of ammunition each.

A rush on bullets fueled by concerns about possible new gun controls since the Sandy Hook massacre has led to a shortage of ammunition at stores nationwide.

Mike McDaniel, 46, said he was there to check on the availability of anything to hunt with, "ammo you can't find anywhere, maybe a gun you can't find anywhere."

The new Supercenter has approximately 300 employees, including about 100 new employees, Store Manager Kami Tate said.

City Commissioner Todd Chase spoke during the opening ceremony.

"I hear pluses and minuses about Walmart sometimes, but I'll tell you, for the employees and the customers, they're happy that there's Walmart, and I'm happy that there's Walmart," he said.

He pointed out the city's first official Park-n-Ride area across 23rd Street.

The lot opens Monday, allowing people to park and catch Gainesville Regional Transit System Route 8 to the University of Florida and Shands at UF.

Cathy Virgil, 50, said the new store is more convenient for her since it is on a bus route that goes through her neighborhood.

Carla Thomas, 56, said the store is on her route to and from work.

"It's awesome," she said. "Not only the selection but the wide aisles give you plenty of room to manipulate and get around people and not be bumping into people."

Shayhaun Lee, 35, said she likes the new floor plan but that in some ways the 13th Street store was more convenient for her.

"Sometimes I don't like to be around a whole crowd and just want to get in and get out. Thirteenth was better from that aspect," she said.

The new store comes after more than 10 years of Walmart attempts to build a store on the north side of Gainesville after the city denied plans in other locations.

"We waited a long time," said Van Williams, 49, who works in receiving, checking in vendors and trucks. "We kept being told next year, next year we're going to have one."

Williams and Jackie Kelly, 61, handled the giant scissors to cut the ribbon. Both had worked at the 13th Street Walmart since it opened on May 17, 1983.

"I loved the old store, but this is just a new mansion," said Kelly, ladies' wear manager.

Before working for Walmart, Kelly had worked in the Woolco that preceded it since Woolco opened in 1972.

Both said they had never heard of Walmart before getting a job there in 1983.

Williams said the biggest change is the technology available today.

"We used to have books to order freight, humongous books," he said. "Now we have a handheld computer."

The 13th Street location is listed for lease by the Kite Realty Group Trust of Indianapolis, Ind., which owns the property.

The company is considering a number of different options for the property but does not have specific plans yet, said Adam Basch of investor relations.

"I'm sure whatever plan we come up with for the center will be equally as solid as Walmart," he said.

Kite Realty has not had any indication that other tenants adjacent to the 13th Street Walmart would leave the shopping center, he said. Other stores there include Books-A-Million, Save-A-Lot, Bealls and several smaller stores.

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