Large sheets of brown paper taped at opposing corners of the sliding glass doors obstruct the view into the new Walmart Neighborhood Market at 1852 Sherwood Way; a man sitting at a table behind another entrance taking down names of visitors.
Aside from the over 100 new full- and part-time employees of the grocery store, the inner workings of the supercenter’s little brother have been shrouded in secrecy until opening day: Not even photos of the store’s insides are permitted, only those of associates working away to stock the many shelves.
Matthew Powell has been working in Neighborhood Markets since May 2014 and is proud to finally have a store of his own. The Abilene native has been hired on as the store’s general manager, and expressed excitement at the Nov. 11 opening, which could promise a few super secret surprises to shoppers.
“I’m from West Texas; I love Texas. I wanted to get out here to San Angelo and have this opportunity to be the first Neighborhood Market out in West Texas,” Powell said.
Although San Angelo already has two Walmart Supercenters, the layout of the local Neighborhood Market is like one of those on a diet: Over a third of the store is dedicated to boxed, canned or frozen goods, with a large section to the right dedicated solely to produce, fruit, meat and a bakery. The look and feel is still definitively Walmart; however, the aisles have been severed down the middle for ease of access to other sections and the size is more manageable without the added apparel, sporting goods, toys and tools.
“With the Neighborhood Markets, we’re primarily a grocery store,” he explained. “We do have our health and beauty; we’re very big on pharmacy; and we also offer all the same dotcom services.”
Those “dotcom” services, Powell expounded, include the option to order anything from the Walmart.com website and elect for the items to be shipped to the store for pick-up.
“When you have it sent to the local store, you get free shipping to the store, versus having to pay Fedex or UPS,” he said.
As far as products the Neighborhood Market regularly carries, shoppers can expect to see the same type of grocery items, but in more quantity and variety than those at the supercenters. This will included expanded organic options, a larger produce section, more dairy products and more frozen foods.
“The supercenters usually have what your hot items are, your top-selling items, where we will have more variety, whether it’s like a green bean or it’s your vegetables, your soup,” Powell said. “Your produce department is bigger and does offer more. Sometimes, we can get stuff quicker than they can, so if it’s a seasonal item, we can get it in usually quicker than they can. We have room to maneuver and change out, where they’re kind of set to what they have.”
On Wednesday morning, a team of Walmart new hires worked to stock the shelves in the store’s various departments, leaving those bare in the bakery, produce and meat counters, whose products will be shipped and stocked last minute to ensure freshness. The meat department measures about the same as those at the local supercenters, but Powell said they will offer more variety there as well since the Neighborhood Market doesn’t sell in bulk. The type of meat sold will remain the same, however, and will not include additional offers, such as fresh fish.
As customers begin to stream into the store, Powell encourages each to request the products they’d like to see stocked to ensure they’re offering what the community wants.
“I’ve actually already had some associates that have already requested certain kinds of creamers, certain kinds of things they’re used to that are hard to find or maybe are not in the supercenters anymore,” he said. “There are quite a bit of items we can bring into the store. I’m very big on working on the customer requests, especially if they find something elsewhere that they want in their store.”
Walmart Neighborhood Market is set to open on Nov. 11 at 7:30 a.m. The store, like the local supercenters, will remain open 24 hours a day.
Although over 100 associates have already been hired, Powell is still accepting applications for full- and part-time positions.