Speeches, free samples, live music, a giant inflatable milk jug—it was all part of the Nottingham Walmart's grand reopening Wednesday morning.
But amid the "W-A-L-M-A-R-T" cheer and ribbon cutting, which largely involved store and corporate employees, representatives of several non-profits, schools and community organizations also attended.
They were there to accept charitable donations, ranging between $1,000 and $2,500. Those awarded included the Maryland SPCA, the Perry Paw Dog Park, the Maryland School for the Blind, the Fullerton Fireworks Foundation, the Perry Hall High School Steel Band and Pine Grove Middle School. The American Legion Overlea-Perry Hall Post and local chapter of the Knights of Columbus were also recognized.
General manager Terry Raynor said the revamped store at 8118 Perry Hills Court was a friend, not foe, to the community. "We're actually here to help people save money and live better. That's not just a tagline," he said.
Raynor's interest in surrounding neighborhoods is personal, said the Putty Hill native and Calvert Hall graduate. "I remember shopping here with my mom," he said.
When the Nottingham Walmart first opened in 1994, its focus was basic merchandise. Eighteen years later, after 16 months of renovation, the "supercenter" includes everything from fresh produce to a bakery to a nail salon.
Raynor became emotional while talking about improvements at the store. "I've spent 20 years working in retail at 20 different stores, but I came back home to the place where I lived and grew up and shopped. This is the happiest I've been in my career," he said.
The store's new focus on groceries, however, hasn't gone without criticism. Raynor said he's aware of concerns that the store's low prices on food could negatively impact neighborhood grocery stores, and other smaller food sellers.
Raynor responded that lower prices on food would benefit families and may help them spend more of their money locally.
"Right now, we have people leaving the community to buy groceries, going to Harford County and Cockeysville and other areas. If they buy from us instead, it's better to have that money stay in the community," he said.
Raynor also emphasized the number of jobs created by the store's new departments—at least 75 staffers have already been added.
Debbie Winkelman of Perry Hall said she attended the reopening mainly to see her son perform with the Perry Hall High School Steel Band, but was impressed by the store, and found herself filling up a grocery cart before leaving that morning.
"If I'm already here, then I'm going to shop for food. Their groceries are cheaper," Winkelman said. "I still like the grocery store near my home, but I'll probably shop there less."
"Walmart does it to a lot of businesses, especially small businesses. They just sell stuff for less," she said.
Where do you shop for groceries? What's most important to you—distance from home, quality, prices or local ownership? Tell us in the comments.