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Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market brings jobs, joy and more business

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New employees laud giant retailer’s commitment to job creation

By Chris Levister

Hurricane Isaac had just swallowed parts of the swamps of South News Orleans Tuesday and the storm delayed Republican National Convention was finally in a full throated roar, but you wouldn’t know it judging from the conversations outside this new Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market located at 2045 Highland Avenue in San Bernardino. Less than 24 hours before the store’s Wednesday grand opening, this group of new Wal-Mart associates are preparing to attend a mandatory orientation and training meeting. Their chatter is more about the retailer’s trademark green shirt policy and the joys of finally landing a job in a down economy.

“This is a good day the Lord has made; I’m rejoicing and leaping for joy,” said cashier Meka Allen who has not held a steady job since 2009. Cashier Desteenie Simmons has been on the unemployment line since 2010. “People like to bash Wal-Mart but I think there’s a lesson here on who really cares for the working class in this country,” said Simmons. A lot of big businesses make elaborate promises about creating jobs but in reality they are steadily shipping jobs overseas, keeping wages low and boosting their own profits.”

“Some people claim they don’t treat their employees fairly – that’s just not true,” said former employee, Mavis Wesley. Wesley now a bank manager worked as a cashier and stocker at two Wal-Mart locations while attending college in Texas. “Those paychecks however small helped me get an education. In the process, I learned valuable lessons in finances, retail management, merchandising and customer service. Oh, and the associates and mangers are like family,” she added.

For Kevin D. who holds a college degree the Wal-Mart job offers a helping of dignity, a paycheck and a lesson in the art of tuning out “empty political rhetoric.” “So far, the political debate over jobs involves attacking the other guy, rather than advancing any real solution. Wal-Mart is not about blaming. They’re putting people like me to work,” he said sliding his earphones across his ears. “I just tune the political noise out.”

Wednesday, the world's largest retailer opened a new store in the former Highland Galleria that has been vacant for several years and like their new associates, many businesses around it couldn't be happier. They're hoping the new Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market will help revitalize the area bringing more customers in who are willing to spend money at their stores, too.

“You can already see the resurgence” said Jawanza Arief, who owns a carpet and flooring store nearby. “Businesses are sprucing up, getting ready for an influx of customers, said Arief after working out at the new Planet Fitness center next to the neighborhood market. “Staples and Joann’s Fabrics and Craft store moved out and left a big void. With vacant store fronts through the years it has been a challenge. It shouldn't be a problem anymore.” “I'm really happy to see Wal-Mart fill in more empty spaces here and it should mean more walk-ins for me. More business is going to be good,” said Jim Fuller who manages a fast food restaurant in the center. “I’ve seen this shopping center go from boom to bust. Looks like it treading upward again,” said Candice Duban. She manages a nearby hair salon. Wal-Mart first opened Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets in 1998, and now operates 200 stores across the country. The smaller store format is designed to provide quick and convenient shopping for groceries, pharmacy items and general merchandise. The 42,000-sq-foot San Bernardino store, which will be open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, will feature a self-serve deli, a self-serve bakery, including a cake case, a wide variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables, as well as meats, cheeses and prepared foods. In addition to the fresh produce and bakery items, the store will carry a full line of groceries, including frozen foods, meat and dairy products, gluten free and organic items.

Shoppers will also appreciate the convenience of the store’s pharmacy, along with a full selection of health-related products and a health and beauty area. Additional areas include baby supplies, household items, stationery, paper goods, pet products, hardware items and a Celebration Station, where customers can buy gift wrap and gift bags, greeting cards and party supplies. Customers can also print their own digital photos at the store.

“San Bernardino is proud to be the site of the 200th Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market.  Wal-Mart is a valued member of our business community and the opening of another store here demonstrates the confidence this company has in our city and community,” said Mayor Pat Morris. “The new store will not only revitalize an existing shopping center, bringing added customers to nearby existing businesses, but will create approximately 65 new local jobs, generate critically needed sales tax revenue for the city and provide fresh, affordable groceries to many families for years to come.” All Wal-Mart stores and Neighborhood Markets participate in the Pay with Cash program. This allows customers to order online at HYPERLINK "http://www.walmart.com/" \t "_blank"www.walmart.com and pay for the items with cash at all stores in the U.S. Wal-Mart is the first major retailer to offer online purchases without the need for banking services or a credit, debit or prepaid card.

Community Groups Benefit from Grand-Opening Grants. As part of the grand-opening celebration, Wal-Mart and the Wal-Mart Foundation will present several grants to local community groups. Two of the recipients are W and W Community Development for Education and the Central City Lutheran Mission for hunger relief. Additional funds will be available throughout the year for local organizations that serve the community and impact causes Wal-Mart customers care about. Interested groups can visit HYPERLINK "http://foundation.walmart.com"http://foundation.walmart.com for more information. The retailer is on track to open a second Inland region Neighborhood Market in Upland this fall. The store’s are among 14 scheduled to open in California by the end of the year, including 10 in the southern counties. None are planned for Riverside County.

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