A town over from Avon, West Hartford will have another grocery store, and the town's first Walmart-owned business, when Neighborhood Market opens its doors to customers at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 20.
A brief ceremony and ribbon-cutting will kick off the grand opening celebration which will include product samplings, giveaways, and various entertainment events.
On Tuesday evening, as associates were finishing stocking shelves and the final touches were being put on the store's interior, Manager Stacey McCarty provided a sneak peek inside the store.
"Neighborhood Market will become special to the West Hartford community," McCarty said. She said many will find the low prices "shocking" for the area since most of Walmart's prices are standard throughout the country.
The store, at approximately 60,000 square feet, is smaller than what shoppers would expect from a Walmart, and roughly the size of many area supermarkets.
"We're about overall shopping convenience," McCarty said. Dairy and produce are in the same aisle, and if you enter the store, head to the left, and shop in a clockwise direction you will automatically pick up the freshest products right before you leave.
The aisle nearest the door is also where the "Grab and Go" is located – stocked with rotisserie chickens ($5.98) and Neighborhood Market's "fried" chicken which is really steam-baked. (McCarty assured this Patch reporter that it would be a popular item with her teenage son and his friends.) "Take-and-bake" pizzas, as well as standard deli sides, fresh bread, and bakery items are also readily available.
Although Neighborhood Market is opening in the space last occupied by Adam's Supermarket, there's no shortage of existing grocery stores in Bishops Corner, with Big Y, Whole Foods, and Crown Supermarket already housed in three of the area's four corner shopping centers. "Whole Foods is very focused on organics, specialties. It's a different kind of grocery shopping," McCarty said. Neighborhood Market is not really competing with Whole Foods, or with Crown Market, although the store does stock kosher foods.
Its main competitor in Bishops Corner is likely Big Y. "I hope this lowers prices for both of us," McCarty said.
McCarty hopes customers will find some major advantages to shopping at Neighborhood Market, including its selection of celebration items; pet department that includes leashes, collars, and toys; large pharmacy; a large selection of baby products; and an extensive health and beauty section that is identical to that found in a Walmart Supercenter.
It's also arranged for convenience, with vacuums near the cleaning supplies and baking pans near the baking supplies, McCarty said. In addition, specialty products, such as kosher and gluten-free foods, are mixed in with their base items rather than in their own sections, she said.
Neighborhood Market doesn't sell apparel or electronics, but they do offer "Site-to-Store" service, which ships online orders from www.walmart.com free to the store for pickup.
The store is also open for extended hours – from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. The pharmacy is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., but McCarty said if there's a demand for even more extended hours, "We'll jump on it."
McCarty said the Bishops Corner location was chosen as the site of Connecticut's first Neighborhood Market because of its availability. "This building had been abandoned for years, and we saw it as an opportunity to reinvent the neighborhood. We took an eyesore and it's now a beautiful store," she said.
“We are very pleased to have Walmart make this investment in our community,” said West Hartford Town Manager Ron Van Winkle in a news release. He called the venture a "welcome concept," and said, "The facility they are occupying has been empty for many years and having that store put back into use is a boom for our local economy, the shoppers and their employees.”
Neighborhood Market will initially employ 130 associates in the Bishops Corner store, although McCarty said that number would presumably drop over time due to attrition. Approximately 40 percent are full time, she said, and 87 percent are new hires to the company. About 15 are transfers from other stores, most into key new positions.
McCarty herself is a transfer from North Attleboro, MA, where she was a co-manager. She began her career with Walmart nearly 12 years ago as a part-time cashier, and said this is her eleventh store in her fifth state.
McCarty said that Neighborhood Market also looks forward to giving back to the local community, and has already donated 11 pallets – about 11,000 pounds – of fresh produce and other items to Foodshare.
"We're delighted to be in the northeast with Neighborhood Market, and this is a a great place to start," said Community & Media Relations Manager Bill Wertz.
For more information, call 860-509-1705 or visit www.walmart.com.