PALM HARBOR — At a time when work is hard to find, this community celebrated the addition of 75 jobs and lots more things to shop for Wednesday at the grand re-opening of its new Walmart Supercenter.
In what looked like a small Memorial Day celebration, a crowd gathered around a stage outside the store at 35404 U.S. 19.
April Bain, a Pasco County sheriff's deputy and daughter of Saundra Anderson, a 19 1/2-year employee of the store, sang the Star Spangled Banner. Anderson understands what the opportunity of a job at the new store can mean.
"My daughter was raised on Walmart," said Anderson, 53, of Holiday. "As mostly a single mom, I raised her on this job."
Dennis Schweitzer, 57, of New Port Richey, honor guard commander of Chester McKay Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7987, gave the invocation and acted as chaplain to bless the store, the employees and its customers. His daughter, Kerri Schweitzer, 26, is the bakery manager.
Honor guards Kyle Rea, 41, and Jake Jacob, 57, raised the flag in 35 seconds flat. They, like others who helped with the celebration, donated their time.
Walmart donated too. Store manager Joe Meggison and his team handed out $2,700 in grant money to several local organizations, including the American Vitiligo Research Foundation, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Arts on the Tarpon Springs campus of St. Petersburg College.
Once the speeches and the ribbon-cutting was over, Meggison opened the 125,000-square-foot store for business.
There are wider aisles, a new layout and an additional 30,000 square feet housing a digital photo-processing center, a pharmacy, a Walmart Connect Center and a Subway restaurant. The store now has a full line of groceries, a bakery, deli, produce and a beer and wine department.
"We have a loyal customer base and some have been shopping here since our original opening in 1991," said Meggison, 36, of Palm Harbor.
Meggison said the store is hiring 75 new workers. When the hiring is done, it will have 275 employees.
Patricia Adams, 48, of Port Richey is among 14 current "associates" who have worked at the store since it opened.
"I've had some good and bad times here, but mostly good times," she said. "In addition, I can't wait to buy groceries in my own store. My family and I are really excited."
So are others in the community, including Missy Bohr, the honorary mayor of Palm Harbor.
"I'm happy to have the Walmart Supercenter here," she said. "It's in my back yard and I'll be frequenting it."
Donnetta Hester, 52, of Clearwater works in the office but started as a sales clerk. She remembers when a supercenter was simply a dream.
"We wanted a supercenter back in 1991," Hester said. "But couldn't build it because of the big oak tree. The oak eventually died. After all this time, we have our supercenter."