Super Walmart opens for business

Published 8:13 am Sunday, February 3, 2013

The new Walmart parking lot was already starting to fill up by 6:30 a.m. Friday, an hour before the doors were scheduled to open. By the time the long-awaited moment drew near, a crowd of people braved the early morning chill to position themselves for entry.

The crowd included parish and city dignitaries, members of American Legion Magic City Post 24, enthusiastic new and longtime Walmart employees and lots of ready shoppers.

“We’re ready, oh yeah,” Dianne Coyle exclaimed with a dance-like flourish. She was among the blue-shirted workers who were moving from the Shopyard Square store to the new location.

Before the throngs were allowed admittance, manager Matt Hogan conducted a short ribbon-cutting ceremony during which he and other company officials commended the community and the facility. One called the new Bogalusa store, “the best looking Walmart store in the entire company today.”

Mayor Charles Mizell then took the stage.

“I remember years ago the rumor was that there was going to be a new Super Walmart,” he said. “It’s a fact today. Thank you, Walmart. I am excited for our region, and looking forward to the future.”

The shoppers in the crowd were looking forward to getting through the door. After a ribbon cutting by some nearly 30-year Walmart veteran employees, followed by a rousing cheer, the hunt was on.

Joey Crain was soon spotted with a look of curious determination on his face and pushing a so-far empty basket.

“I just came to check it out pretty much,” he said, smiling.

Farley Grantham didn’t have a basket, but he was also looking to see what was available in the new, expanded Walmart.

“I’m just here to celebrate with the rest of the people,” he said. “I was here for the last one. We have a good mayor. It’s time to get excited here.”

Mike Corkern, a familiar sight for shoppers at the old store who’s been with the company for a dozen years, was philosophical as he watched the bustle in the aisles.

“I think this store will generate enough additional traffic that everybody will tend to do better,” he said. “That’s what I would like to see. We could even give a boost to our competitors.”

By providing an attraction for increased traffic in the city, the Walmart could benefit local business generally, Corkern said. Besides that, businesses could work together.

For example, the new Walmart doesn’t have an auto service center but does sell supplies. So a local service provider could position itself to do the work, such as an oil change, with oil purchased from Walmart. The partnerships could be mutually beneficial, Corkern said.

Even other small “Mom and Pop” businesses could use the new big chain store to “develop a niche” for themselves into the future, he said.

As Corkern pondered further, people with baskets filling up continued to pass. Within about a half hour of the opening, Sharon Ball was headed to the checkout area.

“Well, I can’t get anything else in my buggy, so I’ll leave,” she exclaimed.

Of course, her husband, Joe, was still in the store.

“Joe’s got a buggy, too,” Ball admitted as she happily took her big new plants out the door and headed for home.