Walmart Express welcomed with pomp and circumstance
Fog was heavy at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, but neither the weather nor the early hour stopped a large crowd from descending on the new Walmart Express in Broadway.
The new store, which includes items typically found in drug and grocery stores and also has a gas station — held its grand opening Wednesday morning. The parking lot was packed well before the event started, causing the parking lot across the street at Broadway Baptist Church to fill up about halfway as well.
Nonetheless, at least one church leader gave his literal blessing. Pastor Larry Pittman offered a prayer, thanking God for the new store and the opportunities it will give the community for both shopping and jobs.
Less than a year ago, when the idea to put a Walmart in downtown Broadway was developing, several locals were quite vocal in their opposition, even threatening to move if the store became reality. But Wednesday, many residents of the 1,200-person town were standing in front of the store, cheering on the new development. Count the town’s elected officials among them.
“One of the things I’ve heard over the years is Broadway needs a pharmacy,” said Mayor Donald Andrews. “Well, now we have a pharmacy.”
Andrews said it’s his hope that having the store will not only encourage more locals to stay in town to shop, but that it will also lead travelers to stop instead of driving through.
The new store employs 33 workers, a statistic that Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce President Bob Joyce said was good news for the town and the county as a whole.
“It means jobs,” he said. “It means paychecks for families.”
It also means an increased tax base and at least $3,000 in charitable donations. Walmart presented checks for $500 dollars each to the Broadway Optimist Club, the town’s North Carolina Veterans Memorial, the Beaver Creek Food Pantry, the Broadway Police Department, the Lions Club of Broadway and the Baptist Children’s Home.
Store Manager Donnalee Damon thanked the Harrington family, who owned the land on which the Walmart now stands instead of soybeans, and she also said she was grateful for support from the town and especially her family, which she said has put up with many long days and nights in advance of the opening.
“They probably don’t even recognize who I am anymore,” she joked.
And with a color guard of local veterans, plus a joint band composed of students from East Lee Middle School and Lee County High School — not to mention an energetic man dressed up as the Cheetos mascot — the ceremony was a mix of pageantry and pep rally.
Before patrons rushed the doors, employees went through a Broadway-specific ‘Walmart Cheer,’ cut the ribbon and yelled out that it was time to shop.
“I don’t know if it’s the lack of sleep or just excitement to get the store open,” Joyce said, “but I have never seen a more excited bunch.”