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St. Petersburg greets a third Walmart at grand opening

Shoppers Etta Drake Cuthbertson, center, and Yolanda Gibson, right, both of St. Petersburg, wave to Walmart employees as they enter the new St. Petersburg store at 201 34th Street N.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Shoppers Etta Drake Cuthbertson, center, and Yolanda Gibson, right, both of St. Petersburg, wave to Walmart employees as they enter the new St. Petersburg store at 201 34th Street N.

ST. PETERSBURG — In this town, there's apparently no such thing as too many Walmarts.

The retail giant opened a third location in St. Petersburg Wednesday morning — just a 10-minute drive from two other Walmart Supercenters — but customers couldn't be happier.

"It's bringing some life to the area," said Michelle Bianco, who visited the store on opening day. "Hopefully more stores will start coming in."

Shoppers packed the aisles just hours after a 7:30 a.m. ceremony attended by City Council members and community members from the nearby Historic Kenwood neighborhood.

Area residents had been instrumental in working with the company to ensure this location wouldn't be a soulless concrete box — it's designed to evoke the Craftsman bungalows prevalent in the surrounding neighborhoods. It's smaller than your typical supercenter, too, at 107,000 square feet, half the size of its 207,000-square-foot counterpart 3 miles away.

Inside on Wednesday, shoppers searched for bargains, munched on free samples and lined up by the dozen to snag an autograph from Rays pitcher Jeff Niemann.

Store manager Kody Daley, deftly dodging shopping carts near the checkout counters, said the store's first day was going smoothly. He's responsible for overseeing more than 300 employees the company hired to staff the new location.

"I think we have the right mix in St. Petersburg," he said, referring to the company's various locations in town. "We're doing a great job of growing."

Locals said they thought the new location was convenient.

"This is perfect — we live just a couple blocks away," said Katie Gualtieri, pushing a stroller carrying her 6-month-old son, Giovanni. "We can walk here if we want to."

Aubrey Whelan can be reached at (727) 893-8316 or awhelan@sptimes.com.

St. Petersburg greets a third Walmart at grand opening 07/20/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 20, 2011 8:10pm]
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