Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Hundreds Turn out for Opening of Walmart in East Topeka

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Hundreds Turn out for Opening of Walmart in East Topeka

Article excerpt

Before the crack of dawn Wednesday, about 250 people gathered in front of the new Walmart store at 2626 S.E. California Ave., ready for the grand opening of a business that many hope will spur more development in East Topeka.

Bob Schneider, awareness chairman of the Highland Acres Neighborhood Improvement Association, stood in the parking lot for the 30-minute ceremony, which began at 7 a.m.

He noted that it took only 36 weeks to construct the new 155,000- square-foot Walmart store, the first major retail business to come to the city's east side in a number of years.

Schneider said he was thrilled with Walmart's "investment" in East Topeka and said he expected more stores to do likewise.

"It's going to be a catalyst for other businesses," Schneider said. "As a previous small-business owner, I know that I would not want to go into an area where there wasn't a big anchor store."

The message sent by Walmart is a clear signal to others looking to expand on the city's east side, Schneider said.

"If Walmart is ready to invest this kind of money in our community," he said, "other small businesses will be ready to invest also."

The grand opening included a fair amount of hoopla, as the Highland Park High School band and dancers were on hand for the festivities. Guest speakers included Mayor Larry Wolgast and Shawnee County Commissioner Kevin Cook.

Walmart brass, including corporate marketing manager Ryan Hoage, praised everyone from city officials to store management to associates for their work in making the new store a reality.

Store manager Michael Haskew said was "super excited" to open for business on Wednesday, adding that people in the community "have wanted us here for a while."

Haskew thanked the audience for putting up with road construction in the 2500 block of S.E. California Avenue, which widened the roadway and added traffic signals that were activated earlier this week at the store's main entrance. …

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