Walmart Opens First D.C. Stores

Locations at 77 H St. NW and 5929 Georgia Ave. NW opened at 8 a.m.

D.C.'s first two Walmart stores opened their doors Wednesday morning.

The city hosted ribbon-cittings at the new 77 H St. NW and 5929 Georgia Ave. NW stores about half an hour before the doors opened at 8 a.m. Employees were on hand at the stores throughout the night getting ready, reported News4's Melissa Mollet.

Crowds lined up well in advance of the opening, pouring into the stores as soon as they opened. Protesters showed up, too, bearing signs with messages such as "Wallmart [sic]: Too High a Cost for low Prices!" and chanting, "Low prices means low wages."

But there was plenty of excitement as well Wednesday morning.

"I've been shopping at Walmart since 1982," said one shopper. "Glad we're here. It's like a dream come true."

"The excitement here today is off the chain," said manager Alvin Robinson. "Our folks here are so excited."

The 103,000-square-foot Georgia Avenue location stocked up for its big opening week with 38 truckloads of merchandise, and one million pounds of food.

Walmart brass and local dignitaries, a choir and the Coolidge High School color guard were part of the grand opening celebration at the Georgia Avenue store, where Mayor Vincent Gray led the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

And of course, there were superheroes and the Cheetos cheetah -- what grand opening would be complete without them?

The new 74,000-square foot store on H street is similar; both have a full grocery section with fresh produce, a deli and a full-service pharmacy.

Outside the Georgia Avenue store Wednesday morning, activist Perry Redd of local group Ward 4 Thrives -- which fought against Walmart's arrival in D.C. -- was among the protesters.
He said he thinks Walmart's ability to offer lower prices will be the death of nearby local businesses, saying 60 percent of them will be gone in two years.

But Sean Wieland, who wanted to be one of the first customers in, had another take on it.

"This property for a number of years had a number of failed businesses on it, and it's exciting to see something come to fruition," he said.

Both locations will be open seven days a week, from 6 a.m. to midnight.

They hired a combined 600 employees after receiving more than 23,000 applications, but Wednesday, a few hopeful people showed up in the early-morning hours looking for work. The company hopes to bring about 1,500 new retail jobs to the city once all five planned stores are completed.

A sixth store was put on hold due to a developer issue.

Walmart is just the latest big-box store to open in the district. Costco opened a location in Northeast D.C. slightly more than a year ago, and Target's first D.C. location debuted in Columbia Heights in 2008.

But the arrival of Walmart in the city has not been a smooth one. The retail giant threatened to pull out three planned stores -- in addition to the three already under construction at the time -- if Mayor Vincent Gray signed a living wage bill.

The Large Retailer Accountability Act, known colloquially as the "Walmart Bill," would have required  the company -- and other big-box retailers -- to pay its employees a minimum of $12.50 an hour.

Gray vetoed the bill in September. 

But the fight isn't over. In a prelimary vote Tuesday, the D.C. Council approved a bill that would raise the city's minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by July 2016, one of the nation's highest. An official vote could come as early as December.
Gray has said he would be comfortable with a minimum wage of $10, but no higher.


Copyright AP - Associated Press
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