Opening day draws large number

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 28, 2004

When it comes to measuring the interest Greenville's new Wal Mart Supercenter's grand opening generated the numbers don't lie.

Customers flocked to the new facility in mass all day Wednesday to see what all the buzz was about.

From the moment the doors opened until late Wednesday night a steady stream of curious Wal Mart shoppers made their way to the new store.

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Shoppers came from all over the state and nation to shop at the Greenville store.

"At one point in the parking lot Ricky McLaney counted tags from 22 counties and eight states," said Store Manager Joe Massanelli. "That is tremendous. It just goes to show you how much interest there was."

Massanelli said the customer count was astounding. However, the high number was likely not even close to the amount of shoppers making their way to the new store on Wednesday.

"We had a customer count of over 5,000, said Massanelli. "That's not the amount of customers in the store. That's just the number of transactions that were made. Even if you have a family of three or four going through the customer count is only one."

Local businesses feared the opening of a Wal-Mart Supercenter would harm their drawing power for customers. Massanelli did not feel this would be the case. Massanelli felt the new store would benefit everyone by pumping revenue from outside the area into the city's economy.

"This is not taking away from existing businesses," said Massanelli. "There may be some that come from existing businesses, but the majority of it will come from people outside of Greenville. The sales tax revenue that has been going to Andalusia, Thomasville and Montgomery we are now going to have right here in Greenville."

Massanelli said the excitement of the new building and the ability to serve the customers on a larger scale has him bursting with pride.

"I'm on top of the world," said Massanelli. "I've dreamed of this day for 14 years and just the reaction of the customers and the response they had made me proud."

A lot of old friends came to see the new store on opening day. Massanelli said it was a great thrill to see their positive reaction.

"It was neat to walk around and see the regular customers from the old building and see the look on their faces," said Massanelli. "It was just a lot of fun."

Massanelli said he believes Saturday may be even bigger than the grand opening.

"We expect Saturday to be just as big," said Massanelli. "It may be as big or bigger than the grand opening. We know a lot of people have to work and did not have a chance to come in Wednesday. Saturday will give them their first chance."

Though Saturday was a grand opening it was also a reunion of old Wal Mart family members. Massanelli said everyone had been separated throughout the moving process, but now they were together again.

"A lot of our associates had to be over at the old store while we were moving," said Massanelli. "It was like our family was split. Grand opening day the family came back together."

One of the benefits of the larger facility is the almost immediate ability to allow customers to put items on layaway for Christmas.

Connie George, the layaway manager, said shoppers would be able to put Christmas gifts on layaway at the first of September.

"It's a big benefit to the customer to be able to pay early," said George. "It will start on Sept. 1 and run through mid December. Layaway is usually 60 days, but for Christmas that will be expanded."