BERLIN — After a years-long approval and construction process, the new Super Walmart on Route 50 in Berlin opened early Wednesday morning amid much fanfare and ceremony.
The cavernous new 85,000-square-foot store dwarfs the company’s former facility on the site, which opened in 1999. The old store will eventually be torn down and the site will be paved over to create parking for the new facility, which officially opened around 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday and will be open 24 hours a day. In the meantime, shuttles are transporting customers from five stops around the old parking area.
The Super Walmart had been in the planning pipeline for several years before ground was broken on the new facility over a year ago. Store Manager Scott Ficca, who served as master of ceremonies for Wednesday’s ribbon cutting and official opening, said the new store was worth the wait.
“Our customers have waited a long time for this day to come,” he said. “It’s finally here.”
The new store creates a one-stop shopping opportunity for residents and visitors including traditional Walmart merchandise along with a vast grocery section, a pharmacy, auto repair, photo lab and just about everything else consumers need. The bright interior colors create an inviting shopping experience and helps define the store’s merchandise areas. Lower shelving creates improved sightlines and directional signage on every aisle helps customers easily find what they are looking for.
Store associate Tabitha Cartwright sang the national anthem at the start of Wednesday’s ceremony and another store associate, Cathy Shockley, delivered a stirring invocation, tying the recent passing of Easter to the store’s opening.
“The Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross for us, and now we have a Super Wal-Mart,” she said during Wednesday’s proceedings.
The new Super Walmart, like all new Walmart stores, includes energy-efficient technology and environmentally friendly features to reduce energy and water consumption and minimize waste. The store’s skylights utilize daylight to reduce the amount of energy required to light the facility by up to 75 percent. LED lighting in the store operates 70 percent more efficiently than traditional fluorescent lighting.
In addition, the cement used in the concrete flooring is made with recycled material and the floor’s finish reduces the need for chemical cleaners. Low-flow toilets and faucets reduce the water used in the bathrooms. The new store also operates a recycling program and will promote sustainable product purchases.
Before Wednesday’s official opening, Walmart staffers got a chance to check out their new digs. The store added 85 new employees, bringing the total to around 300. Walmart Market Manager Mary Wilson said Tuesday’s events illustrated the facility’s growing family.
“Yesterday [Tuesday], we had our friends and family day and I saw how much this means to everybody in this room,” she said. “Some had been here just two weeks and others have been here 13 years. To all, I say welcome to our Walmart family.”
As part of the company’s commitment to the communities in which it operates, $5,500 in grants from the Wal-Mart Foundation were presented during the grand opening. Among the recipients were the Atlantic United Methodist Church, the Ocean City Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Committee, Ocean Pines Volunteer Fire Department, Snow Hill and Stephen Decatur High Schools, Decatur Middle School and the Stevenson United Methodist Church’s Spirit Kitchen.
“We opened here in 1999 and we’ve been very engaged in the community ever since,” said Regional Manager Bob Davis. “We want to let the community know we’re very excited to be here in Berlin.”
The economic impact of the new store was not lost on local officials, including Berlin Mayor Gee Williams, who said the new facility is symbolic of the growth of the town.
“What an exciting day for Walmart and our community,” he said. “To all of the Walmart associates, I say way to go. We’re excited about the opening of this new store. It’s bright and sunny and reflects what is going on in our community. The future of this community is brighter than it’s ever been.”
Worcester County Commission President Bud Church acknowledged the difficult approval process behind the store opening.
“Thanks for a beautiful store on the inside and a beautiful store on the outside,” he said. “I know there were some hurdles, but we appreciate everything this brings to the county and this community.”
State Sen. Jim Mathias praised the new store for its economic development and jobs creation.
“I’m proud of the capital investment Walmart has made in this county and in this state,” he said.
Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melanie Pursel was on hand to present Ficca with a plaque and also praised the new facility.
“This is such an amazing day and the energy in this room is amazing,” she said. “The economic impact of this store, the positivity and energy is unbelievable. Thanks for making this investment in our community.”