By Shelley Grieshop
They've super-sized the Wal-Mart Supercenter.
The new grocery and general merchandise store slated to open in Celina on May 11 stretches nearly 205,000 square feet -- about 25,000 square feet larger than most other Supercenters across Ohio.
"We're looking at the Celina store as being a much bigger trade area because of its location by the lake and major highways," said Steve Speranza, director of leasing for property developer R.G. Properties of Columbus.
Inside the mammoth store, customers also will find a Fun Center with arcade, vision and optical centers with an on-site licensed optometrist, a portrait center, Smart Styles hair salon, a bank, and a Papa Murphy's pizza supply store.
"McDonald's is trying real hard to get in here, too," said Chris Carroll, soon to be the overall director of facilities at the new Supercenter. Carroll said Jeff and Mary Monfort, who operate several area McDonald restaurants, are trying to convince their corporate office to give them the go-ahead. If the Monforts are successful, McDonald's will replace a planned in-house snack bar, Carroll said.
Wal-Mart in Celina currently employs 168 people including 40 recently hired for the new store. By the grand opening, the new Supercenter will boast 438 employees -- about 21ò2 times more workers.
Carroll, manager of the current 68,000-square-foot Wal-Mart in Celina, said the new Supercenter is a "prototype."
"They're changing the standard design with this one to make it a lot better store," he said.
Part of that design is a reversal in the traditional department locations: the grocery portion of the store will be to the left of the main entrance, general merchandise to the right.
The baker/deli area and produce department will be up front with frozen foods to the rear of the store, Carroll said during a recent tour of the building.
Several workers, including some local contractors, were at the site this week installing freezers and coolers; one man rode atop a floor sweeper. The cement used for the floor is a new look for today's Supercenters. Tinted red with a special finish, the floor will never need waxed, only scrubbed and buffed, Carroll said.
The lawn and garden area will be quadruple the size of the former one across the road, he said. The Supercenter's Tire Lube Express will offer eight bays instead of the present four at the old store.
"And the pits will be built below the floor level so vehicles won't have to go up on hoists," he said.
A drive-through pharmacy will be another convenience for customers who can drop off their prescriptions outside the store in air tubes (similar to a bank drive through) and pick them up later at a designated time without ever getting out of their vehicle.
Typically there are 51ò2 weeks between the time Wal-Mart takes possession of the store from contractors and the grand opening takes place. Carroll said the possession date right now is April 4, with the grand opening May 11.
Other area Supercenters are considerably smaller than Celina's. The city of Wapakoneta will debut its Supercenter, a 158,000-square-foot facility, on April 13, and Eaton's Supercenter measures 155,000 square feet and will open March 23, Wal-Mart spokesman Marty Heires said.
The average Supercenter in Ohio is 180,000 square feet, Heires added. There are 1,713 Supercenters across the United States.
When asked whether the one-stop shopping experience might be detrimental to the future of other area retail stores, Carroll replied:
"We're not trying to run anyone out of business. We're asking other stores to be competitive," he said. "In the end, it's the customer who benefits."