The Wal-Mart Supercenter parking lot was almost full by 9 a.m. Wednesday on opening day of the 121,000-square-foot Lemon Creek store.
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A large Oreo cookie greeted customers with a smile at the door. Some people were there to stuff their shopping carts full of deals. Others were wandering the store - cart-free - investigating. Ladies squealed "I love Wal-Mart!" as they shuffled out of the restroom. Others walked slowly down aisles, peering suspiciously at each and every price tag.
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Months of anticipation built up to a virtual frenzy Wednesday morning as Wal-Mart employees wiggled as they yelled a Wal-Mart cheer before opening the first supercenter in Alaska. A "supercenter" refers to a Wal-Mart that includes groceries. The store, which will have 250 employees when fully staffed, will also sell the usual Wal-Mart merchandise, including clothing, sporting goods, electronics and medicine.
One woman near the deli seemed delighted to spot cups of a mystery gelatin treat in red, white and blue layers. Grabbing one, she gasped, "Seventy-seven cents!" but then wondered out loud, "What is it?"
While many seemed satisfied with the prices, others were clearly disappointed.
"So far, I'm seeing that the prices are comparable to Fred Meyer," said Erin Ahrens, who runs Dancing Bears Daycare. She was shopping for deals on food and clothes for the children she cares for.
Ahrens said she had hesitations about Wal-Mart because of what she had heard about worker pay and benefits.
"I do have hesitations. But I saw that their pay is good here, so that makes me feel better," she said, adding that there did seem to be more variety in their clothing selection than in other stores in town.
Henrich Kadake came from Kake on the ferry with his two boys to stock up at the Wal-Mart on Wednesday. His cart was already full of boys' clothes at 9:20 a.m.
Nine-year-old Terrell Kadake surveyed the game selection with wide eyes and an excited smile. He said he likes Wal-Mart because the video games are better, but his father had a different reason.
"Prices are a lot cheaper here than at Fred Meyer. A lot more reasonable," Henrich Kadake said.
Meanwhile, Karie Murray, 21, shopped the aisles with her 9-month-old daughter and was getting the same sense as Ahrens on prices.
Although Murray found a high chair for half the price of one at Fred Meyer, she said she was disappointed at the prices and found them mostly comparable to other stores in town.
Manager Kai Kauai said the store will match or beat any price and any coupon from another store in town. Other stores' ads presented at the register will receive an automatic reduction on the item in question. Kauai said Wal-Mart employees will be shopping other stores to compare prices and make sure theirs are the lowest.