Leader Blues

Friday, July 17, 2009

TOP STORY >> Lonoke Walmart opens

Leader staff writer

Lonoke finally has a grocery store after the new Walmart store at 322 Brownsville Loop Road opened Wednesday.

The city has been without a grocery store since City Market closed about six weeks ago.

The store has 206 employees; the previous location had 61. The store is 99,000- square-feet, about half the size of most Supercenters. Along with groceries, the store has a lawn and garden center.

“We needed something like this. You can actually buy groceries in Lonoke now,” Lonoke resident Jay White said.

“It is good for Lonoke. We have been needing this for a long time. You don’t have to go out of town to get food,” Lonoke resident Debbie Williams said.

Assistant manager Jennifer Burroughs said, “We carry the same products as the Supercenter. It still has the hometown feel. We have the same associates and cashiers (from the old store on 1400 N. Center St.) We added 30 cashiers from the Lonoke area.”

Customer Joyce White said, “It’s great. It is within four miles from our house. We’ll save a lot of gas.”

A smaller store has advantages according to assistant store manager J.D. Moore.

“It is easier to shop in; it’s not as large. It has a better family atmosphere. Friends and kinfolk will be shopping here,” Moore said.

Lonoke resident LaRose Lackey was shopping during the opening hour with her son, Mike Burgess. “It is absolutely what we have been waiting for. Everybody is excited. It is more than I expected. Everything I was looking for, I found. We will definitely be back. Walmart is going to help our city grow,” she said.

“They have met the needs of the community,” Lonoke Chamber of Commerce executive director John Garner said.

Garner predicts there will be more growth for Lonoke.

“To get to the store you have to drive down Center Street, unless you are traveling west on I-40. There will be a tremendous amount of traffic for merchants along Center Street,” he said.

Garner says four projects will help the city grow: The new community center, the new middle school, the new Walmart and the planned $10 million Lonoke High School.

At a VIP preview tour of the new store Monday night, Walmart officials presented checks totaling $28,000 to 15 area organizations.

The biggest check was for $15,000, and went to the Arkansas Food Bank.

Checks for $2,500 each were awarded to Wade Knox Child Advocacy Center, Lonoke Council on Aging, Open Arms Shelter, the Lonoke Volunteer Fire Department, Lonoke Exceptional School and the Lonoke Police Department.

Walmart gave $1,000 checks to Lonoke Century League, Lonoke Lions Club, American Cancer Relay for Life, Carver High School Alumni Association, CASA, Lonoke Child Development Center, Arkansas Rice Depot and the Boy Scouts of America, Quapaw Council.