Early morning opening does not hinder excitement

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 30, 2003

Alan Suitts, manager of the new Wal-Mart, walked up to the microphone.

&uot;Good morning everyone,&uot; he said.

That was their cue.

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The employees yelled, &uot;Good morning Alan!&uot; then clapped their hands twice, stomped their feet twice and grunted a &uot;Whew!&uot;

The opening ceremonies for the new Wal-Mart had begun.

Wal-Mart has operated in Albert Lea for over 15 years, but its new building opened Wednesday. The new location has a variety of different features, such as a grocery store, tire store and gas station.

Suitts, who has worked for Wal-Mart for more than 15 years, began the ceremony by reading a list of local organizations to whom the store has donated, including the Freeborn County United Way, the Freeborn County Humane Society, the Albert Lea Medical Center and Albert Lea High School. Over $8,000 has been donated.

Mayor Jean Eaton also spoke. Stimulating the crowd who showed up for the 7:30 a.m. opening, she yelled, &uot;Are we excited or what?&uot; Cheers and clapping followed.

Twenty-two employees who helped open the original Albert Lea Wal-Mart were each given a plaque and then cut the ribbon to officially open the store for business.

Ruth Judd is one of the original employees. &uot;I am excited about the new store opening. It’s going to be great.&uot; She is looking forward to the new people she will meet.

The store employs about 445 people, over 200 of whom had not worked at the former Wal-Mart.

Keith Steihke, who sang the national anthem during the opening, is one of them. He has worked for the company for five years, but never in Albert Lea. He is moving from Mankato to work as produce manager.

Though early in the morning, customers began roaming the pristine aisles of the store.

Jodi Gleason said that she was shopping because she needed things she couldn’t find at the old Wal-Mart. She said that she is excited that the new store is around, but disappointed that it is further away from her home than the other store.

&uot;The old one was only four blocks away from my house,&uot; she said.

(Contact Benjamin Dipman at ben.dipman@albertleatribune.com or 379-3439.)