Other supercenters popping up

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 15, 2001

OWATONNA – Area shoppers need only drive a short distance for a glimpse at Albert Lea’s retail future.

Thursday, March 15, 2001

OWATONNA – Area shoppers need only drive a short distance for a glimpse at Albert Lea’s retail future. The region’s newest Wal-Mart Supercenter opened Wednesday in Owatonna to crowds of shoppers. The 157,000-square-foot multi-service store is a virtual replica of the supercenter planned for Albert Lea’s east end near I-35 and County Road 46.

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Owatonna store manager Scott Hutchinson said the supercenter is more than double the size of Owatonna’s old Wal-Mart location and offers much more to its customers. The most significant difference between conventional Wal-Mart stores and a supercenter is a full line of groceries including a meat counter, deli, and bakery.

The Owatonna supercenter also has a range of other services such as a bank, one-hour photo lab with full digital capabilities, a hair salon, restaurant, pharmacy and vision center with an in-house optometrist. The store also has a year-round greenhouse and a Tire & Lube Express with three vehicle bays.

The supercenter is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year except Christmas Day, said Hutchinson.

The Owatonna supercenter’s offerings are probably identical to the store planned for Albert Lea. The size and layout should also be similar, Hutchinson said.

&uot;I know the Albert Lea Wal-Mart supercenter is still in the planning stages, but I would expect that our store in Owatonna will be a twin,&uot; said Hutchinson, who has worked for Wal-Mart for 11 years.

Wal-Mart supercenters are becoming more and more common across the country, Hutchinson said. The giant retailer held grand openings in 62 locations across the country Wednesday.

&uot;Wal-Mart is committed to growing, and were glad to bring a piece of that to Owatonna. The response has from customers has been fantastic,&uot; Hutchinson said.

Wal-Mart’s presence in the region will continue to grow – besides Albert Lea, another supercenter is planned for Mason City. Worthington, Mankato and Rochester already have the huge stores, relocations from older smaller locations, Hutchinson said.

&uot;We’re talking about $10 billion over the next 10 years just for renovations and relocations,&uot; he said.

&uot;This is a great time to be working for Wal-Mart because of the opportunities the company is creating.&uot;

Of Hutchinson’s staff of 320 associates, he has 18 management positions, many of which are filled by employees who began as hourly workers, he said.

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart’s progress in Albert Lea continues. According to the Albert Lea City Planner’s office, the city is negotiating with Wal-Mart over the development costs of the project A preliminary plat for the supercenter site has already been approved by the city council.

Similarly, the supercenter planned for the west edge of Mason City is awaiting zoning approval from the city council, said Mayor Bill Schickel.

&uot;We’re hopeful that a Wal-Mart supercenter will be built here. It has been in the works for a long time, and we think it will bring more shoppers to our city,&uot; Schickel said.