Wal-Mart enters grocery market

"South Kitsap seems to have become a haven for supermarkets. Although there are already six stores in the Port Orchard area offering many of the same services, items, and goods, Wal-Mart's Bethel Road location hopes its expansion project will lead them into the fast lane of supermarket ventures.The Wal-Mart corporation, which has already renovated one Washington Wal-Mart into a grocery store in Walla Walla, hopes to begin work on their second attempt at bringing the supermarket genre to their customers as early as 2002.When we get our food distribution wherehouse in place, that will feed a whole bunch of stores within a 300-mile radius, said Store Manager Doug Ayerst of how areas are chosen for expansion into supermarket status. Before the project gets underway, the Wal-Mart store must receive approval from the county's Department of Community Development for their proposal to expand and must undergo a site plan review process.Provided all the permits go through (we can start building), said Ayerst. It's up to the county. My understanding is that it takes up to a year to process.The project will add 105,551 sq. ft. to the Wal-Mart, nearly doubling the size of the store and bringing the total to a whopping 209,036 sq. ft. of shopping grounds. Also, 370 parking stalls will be added, making the number of available spaces 993.In August, Wal-Mart purchased eight acres of land surrounding their property for $909,000, much of which will be used for the expansion project. It's going to expand on all four walls, said Ayerst. I haven't seen the actual plans yet, but I think it'll be improved quite a bit.Additions to Wal-Mart's wares that will make it supercenter material include meats, produce, dairy, bakery, seafood, frozen food, and dry grocery goods.What sets the Wal-Mart supermarket apart, according to Doug Ayerst, is the fact that they have low prices-very low prices.It's going to make it less expensive to live here, he said.Wal-Mart's attempts at turning their stores into supercenters are not new concepts for the company.Actually, supercenters started back in the late 80s, said Ayerst. They've been expanding ever since, and they really stepped up in the 1990s.Ayerst projects that the numbers have jumped from six supercenters to approximately 700 expanded stores nationwide.They're almost everywhere except Washington and Oregon right now, he said. Eventually, most of them will (expand).The Bethel Wal-Mart expects to hire at least 300 new employees for the new supercenter, and will also be adding 32 registers to the front-end of the store.When we get those busy weekends, we'll be able to help more customers, said Ayerst.Residents may have a bit of a wait to try out Wal-Mart's new supercenter, but if the proposal meets with county approval, more detailed and specific plans will be disclosed.I'm sure over the next year there will be more information coming out, said Ayerst. "

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