Chandler Walmart gets storewide upgrade - East Valley Tribune: News

Chandler Walmart gets storewide upgrade

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Posted: Friday, September 4, 2009 12:03 pm | Updated: 2:48 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Verna McKay of Chandler stopped by her neighborhood Walmart recently to check out the fresh produce and snag some grand-reopening freebies.

"I'm excited," McKay said of the 18-year-old discount store's transformation into a supercenter.

McKay said she has shopped at the Sun Village Fair Walmart, at Warner and Alma School roads, since it opened in 1991, often stopping by twice a week to pick up essentials.

Now she can get her groceries there as well, she said.

Walmart boosted the store's size from 114,000 square feet to 143,000 to make room for the supermarket section, said Vanessa Carcich, store manager.

But food is not all that's new about the old store.

The company modernized the entire place, widening the aisles, removing cart-blocking product displays, replacing carpeting with wood floors, lowering towers of shelves and adding classy touches such as marble countertops in the kitchen department, Carcich said.

"It opens up the customer space and eliminates the confined feeling," she said.

The store also added new merchandise - "GPS, Blu-ray, a lot more electronics," for example, Carcich said - and new services, including a hair salon.

Not so obvious are the environmentally friendly features such as LED lighting, low-flow toilets and floor finishes that reduce the need for chemical cleaners.

Walmart also hired 40 more employees, boosting the total staff to 240, to provide a new level of customer service, Carcich said.

Instead of giving directions to a department, for example, "We'll take the customer right to the item," she said.

McKay likes the wider aisles.

Staci Blunt of Mesa likes the supermarket section.

Blunt, who said she passes the Walmart every day as she takes her daughter to school, seldom stopped to shop there.

"Now that it has a market, I can stop on my way home for groceries," Blunt said. "This is convenient. It's right down the street from my daughter's school. And I like one-stop shopping."

Not everybody does, though.

"I'm not impressed," said Jackie Markham, who lives nearby. "I liked it better smaller."

But Daniela Parada, who lives across the street from the store, said she's happy with the expanded Walmart.

"I think it will be good for the neighborhood," she said.

Shopping center owner PDG America thinks so, too.

"We are excited that Walmart has completed its expansion," said Daniel Petersen, PDG America director of leasing. "We think that having the construction complete will improve the aesthetics of the site, and the expanded store should draw more customer traffic."

And more tenants.

PetSmart moved out during a belt-tightening in July, but PDG America is in negotiations for that empty store site, Petersen said.

"These large corporate tenants tend to take a while to complete, but I'm optimistic that we will land this retailer," he said.

And the company recently signed a lease for a new restaurant to move into another vacant space in the center. That eatery should be ready to cook up new excitement at Sun Village Fair by the end of the year, Petersen said.

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