The new Walmart Supercenter in central Fresno opened Wednesday morning at Ashlan and Blackstone avenues in a former Mervyns.
The store was more than a year in the making as the retailer converted the building, which sat empty for about six years, into a supercenter with a grocery store. It employs 300 full- and part-time workers.
The store was bustling with shoppers after the early-morning ribbon-cutting, with workers giving away bags of tortillas and other free food.
At 107,000 square feet, the store is the average size of a supercenter, but smaller than some of the giant supercenters that are built from scratch, said Walmart store manager Kirk Ansel.
A supercenter is a store that has a full grocery store, including a bakery and deli and a pharmacy.
Because of its limited size and a neighboring Good Guys Tires & Auto Repair, this Walmart does not have an auto service center nor an outdoor sales area.
The store has a few departments some Walmarts don’t, including a fabric and yarn department with a cutting table and a paint-mixing station. It also has a photo center, a phone department where customers can get cellphone contracts, a counter where customers can pick up items ordered online and a money center where they can pay utility bills and make other financial transactions.
Although Walmart often attracts debate over its pay and effects on smaller businesses, officials on Wednesday praised Walmart for taking over an empty building in a central Fresno neighborhood.
The area had increased police calls after Mervyns closed and left a dark, empty building behind, said Fresno City Council Member Clint Olivier, whose district includes the location.
“What once was blight is very much alive,” he said. “We’re going to see a lot more traffic and a well-lit parking lot and ... another choice for people who live around here.
The conversion from Mervyns took longer than expected because the store sat empty. The store was drastically remodeled, with the doors facing Blackstone Avenue blocked off and a main entrance only on the north side.
The store is on two bus lines, allowing customers without cars easier access than some other Walmart stores, noted manager Ansel.
“Walmart wants to be where the customer demand is,” he said. “It feels like the city is shifting south again.”