A six-year-old boy, who is an employee's son, cut the ribbon this morning marking the official opening of the new Wal-Mart super store in Mahoning Township.
Sean Miller was assisted by his mom, Jody Serfass of Bowmanstown, with handling the over-sized scissors that cut through the red ribbon held by Girvin Janicki, store manager, and Jim McKay, assistant manager.
After the ribbon cutting, which was held inside the store, the doors were opened and a large crowd filed through for their first look.
Asked why the youngster was chosen to cut the ribbon, Janicki said "He brightens everyone's day. When you see him and the struggle he goes through, your problems don't seem as serious anymore. He's an inspiration to the associates and myself."
The youngster is afflicted with a genetic disorder, Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome.
A highlight of the opening ceremonies was the presentation of donations by the Wal-Mart Foundation totaling $25,000. The recipient of the largest amount was the Mahoning Township Police Department, which received $21,000. Other recipients were Trinity Lutheran Food Bank, $1,500; Mahoning Valley Ambulance, $1,000; Mahoning Valley Fire Department, $1,000, and Shriner's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, $500.
Music selections were provided by the Music Express of Lehighton Area High School, under the direction of David Perkins. They did several variety numbers as well as sing the "Star Spangled Banner."
Rev. Allen Heckman of Zion United Church of Christ, Lehighton, provided the invocation.
The store opening was scheduled for 8 a.m., but officially occurred 10 minutes early. The only disappointment voiced by some of the early customers was that they didn't get to see the ribbon-cutting because it was held indoors before the public was permitted inside.
In attendance was Carbon County Commissioner Wayne E. Nothstein. "I'm glad to see Wal-Mart expand here with 150 new associates," he said. "Hopefully more and more people will stay in Carbon County to shop."
"It's very nice," he said of the new store. "It's large."
The new Wal-Mart is more than twice the size of the former store, located a half mile east of the present building along Route 443. The 150 workers that were hired for the new store brings total employment to about 350 associates. Janicki said all the employees from the former store were transferred to the new one.
The entrance to the store is located at Frederick's Grove Road, with the store located a half mile away atop a large hill. The store is not visible from Route 443 but a sign along the road shows the location.
Mahoning Township Fire Police helped with traffic control this morning.
Linda Walp of Lehighton was one of the first customers to enter the new store. She said, "I think it's good for the area," but added, "I'm disappointed they didn't let the public in for the ribbon cutting."
Lynne Stawiarski of Summit Hill said she came straight from work to the new Wal-Mart. "I think it's wonderful," she said of the super store. "It's huge. It's enormous."
Agreeing with her was Francine Clouser of Barnesville who commented, "It's good. It's great. I like it. They have a bigger selection."
"I love it," remarked Jodi Trotman of Lehighton, who said she is a regular Wal-Mart shopper. "I've been waiting for it to open for weeks."
Among the speakers for the opening was Linda Smith, head of Wal-Mart's store planning department out of Benton, Arkansas. She told an associate, "When I go back to Arkansas, I'm going to be bragging about you."
"This is such a beautiful store," she said, adding of the employees, "You guys work so great together."
Janicki said he was constantly approached by people the past few months who kept asking when the new store will open. He said, "This store will be so important to the community."
The new Wal-Mart features wide aisles, enhanced service, and a layout designed for shopper convenience.
The store has 204,000 square feet of shopping space, compared to 98,000 in the former store, which closed at 7 p.m. yesterday. In comparison, the Hometown Wal-Mart has 150,000 square feet.
The previous Mahoning Wal-Mart will eventually be razed with plans for a Lowe's Home Improvement Store to be constructed on the site.