Two Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets open doors Wednesday

This is the Walmart Neighborhood Market at 1042 Manchester Expressway, one of four such grocery stores that opened locally in the past year.
This is the Walmart Neighborhood Market at 1042 Manchester Expressway, one of four such grocery stores that opened locally in the past year. tadams@ledger-enquier.com

Two of the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets coming to Columbus will be opening their doors on Wednesday, with a third store in Phenix City preparing to make its debut Jan. 20.

"Our team has worked hard to prepare this store," said John Nickerson, manager of the 1042 Manchester Expressway location adjacent to Columbus Technical College.

The Manchester Expressway market will be open 6 a.m. to midnight each day, unlike the 7400 Blackmon Road store that will be available to shoppers 24 hours a day. It is managed by Tony Thigpen.

A third Neighborhood Market is nearly ready at 3864 U.S. Highway 80 West in the Ladonia area of Phenix City. The retailer has yet to say what its hours will be when it opens Jan. 20, although it likely will be serving customers around the clock considering there is no Wal-Mart Supercenter in the general vicinity. The manager of that store is Frankie Holmes.

Each of the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets are

about 41,000 square feet, each employing nearly 90 people full and part time . The company noted more than three-quarters of its store management started with the company as hourly workers. For instance, Nickerson has been with Wal-Mart since 1989, starting in the lawn and garden department, while Thigpen began in a store meat department in 1996.

The neighborhood markets are a concept launched in 1998 by Wal-Mart, which was founded in 1962 in Bentonville, Ark.

The stores are full-line grocery stores and easier to navigate and checkout for shoppers, particularly those who don't prefer the traditional mammoth supercenters that can top 150,000 square feet in size.

The company said grand opening ribbon-cuttings for the Manchester Expressway and Blackmon Road stores are scheduled 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, with grants being given to community organizations. Both locations also have planned events for noon-3 p.m. Saturday called "A Big Family Welcome" that include activities and free food samples while they last.

Wal-Mart also is constructing a neighborhood market at 4909 Buena Vista Road in east Columbus, with that store expected to open this spring. A 159,357-square-foot supercenter also is coming out of the ground on Benning Drive, just off Victory Drive in south Columbus, with it expected to be finished later this year.

The retailer's presence in the market already is major. In Columbus, it operates a supercenter and Sam's Club on Whittlesey Boulevard, supercenters on Airport Thruway and Gateway Road, and a smaller discount store on Buena Vista Road. It has a supercenter on U.S. Highway 280/431 in Phenix City.

Nationwide, the Wal-Mart army is vast, with the company employing more than 1.4 million at its 3,466 supercenters, 699 neighborhood markets, 655 Sam's Club outlets, 449 discount stores, and 41 small-format locations that operate under the names of Amigo, Wal-Mart on Campus and Super Ahorros. Those numbers were current as of Nov. 15, according to the firm's website.