Aisle by aisle, the Walmart Neighborhood Market in the Town of Waukesha was getting prepped for its grand opening.
Only two weeks remained and many of the 98 employees the store is hiring were hard at work on a Thursday afternoon. They were putting price labels on shelves, constructing shelves, getting the pharmacy ready and going through inventory.
"Everything is absolutely right on schedule," said store manager Lee Spude, as he walked through the 42,000-square-foot store on Oct. 17. "Merchandise is coming in right on time, so we're looking ready to go Nov. 1."
That's when the market, at S14-W22605 Coral Drive on Highway 164, will hold a grand-opening ceremony outside the store.
Town of Waukesha Chairman John Marek and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch are scheduled to speak at 7:30 a.m. before the market opens to customers at about 8:15 a.m.
The Town of Waukesha Board approved the Walmart Neighborhood Market last fall and construction began in the spring.
Spude said his team came into the store at the end of September to set up fixtures and shelves and a couple weeks later began getting products into the store. He planned on having everything stocked by the end of this week.
"Everything else is ready to rock," Spude said.
Confident in approach
He's hoping these positive vibes continue when the store opens.
Despite a new Woodman's nearby off Highway 164, three Pick 'n Saves in the city (two on Sunset and one on Moreland Boulevard), a potential future Meijer supercenter a few miles south and a Walmart Supercenter at South West Ave., Spude is confident in the neighborhood market's model.
"I can't speak to what the other stores' strategies are, but we offer a really unique shopping experience in that we have the exact same value prices that normal Walmart Supercenters have," Spude said. "The only difference is we're designed specifically for convenience. So this store is designed so a customer can come in, get the groceries they need, they can get the pharmaceuticals they need, they can get the health and wellness (products) they need, pet food, all the stuff that the customers need — not necessarily what they want — but what they need.
"It's designed to have that available in a very quick shopping experience. They don't have to walk across a huge store to get from one section to the other. It's designed specifically for a quick and easy shopping experience and a quick and easy check out."
The Walmart Neighborhood Market model, a smaller version of the supercenters, first opened in 1998.
"Most people think this is a brand-new thing, but they've been around for a while now," Spude said. "Now, they're really starting to expand."
Spude explained neighborhood markets opened last year in Wauwatosa, Milwaukee and Menomonee Falls and one just recently opened in Mount Pleasant (Racine County).
"So far they have been doing extremely well," Spude said. "They've been succeeding just as we expected them to."
The market is replacing the Walmart discount store that closed at this site in 2010 after a Walmart Supercenter opened a few miles down the road, north of Highway 59 on the southwest side.
The market, which will be open from 6 a.m. to midnight seven days a week, includes a deli, bakery and liquor departments, a full-service pharmacy and pharmacy drive-through.
Spude anticipates the pharmacy to be a major hit.
"When it moved to a supercenter down the road, the No. 1 complaint that customers had was the pharmacy moving four miles was too far," Spude said. "And there's not another pharmacy option in the area. So one of the huge draws for us coming back here in this exact spot was to bring the pharmacy back to our customers. It took us a couple years, but this will probably be our No. 1 draw to the community."
New to Waukesha
Like the new Walmart format, the community is new to Spude.
Spude has worked at Walmart Supercenters for three years, making stops in Wausau, Marinette, Sturgeon Bay, Appleton and Baraboo along the way.
But he was drawn to the Waukesha location.
"My wife and I have a 16-month-old daughter and we said we need a spot where we can just settle down, find a good community and then this opened up (for a Walmart), we said this is where we want to go."
The store's format makes it also a place where he wants to be.
"Half of the reason I came here was for this specific format," Spude said. "This format offers you a chance to truly connect with your customers and connect with the community — not that you don't in a supercenter — but you can be more personal in a smaller format like this."