Alicia Reynolds woke up early to attend Walmart's grand opening Wednesday, and her choice for breakfast - bananas and popcorn chicken - were the first purchase made at the new Supercenter at the intersection of Brown Bridge and Salem Roads.
The 50-year-old Conyers resident was one of 6,000 to 7,000 customers Manager Ron Tillman said he expected to shop at the store on a daily basis. Her presence bodes well for Newton County, which is hoping to turn the sales tax tables on Rockdale County, which has pilfered revenue from Newton for years.
Newton County residents spend an estimated $1.5 billion per year on goods and services and only 50 percent of that money is being spent in Newton, according to local officials.
"I definitely plan to come here. It's only seven minutes away from my house, and a lot closer than the other Walmart in Conyers," Reynolds said.
This new Walmart is approximately 10 miles from the Covington Walmart on Inudstrial Boulevard, according to Google maps, and county Chairman Kathy Morgan said the nearest competitor is 8.5 miles away.
"And if you live on the western side of Newton County, and 50 percent of our population lives west of the Yellow River...in that 8.5 mile range, you have to drive 10 to 15 minutes every time you need to run to Walmart to pick up something for homework for your children, a t-shirt, a prescription, anything in this area. So we have really been looking forward to this store," Morgan said.
Morgan said she hopes the store will not only attract Conyers residents but also those from Henry County, as the nearest competitor driving south is 22 miles away.
"We are thrilled to have you here. We appreciate Walmart for making this choice, this investment and for choosing our county. And I hope you are so busy you have to double your employees in order to keep the business here," Morgan told the group of employees, Walmart management and local officials who had gathered for the ribbon cutting ceremony.
The 176,000 square-foot building employs 314 workers, about 90 percent of whom are Newton County residents, said Tillman previously. The store is open daily from 6 a.m. to midnight.
Morgan said previously that the rule of thumb for an established Supercenter - one that's been open for three to five years - is that it will generate $1 million in revenue for each one percent of sales tax, which would add $3 million to local tax coffers.
"The biggest opportunity I see here is that customers had to travel so far to get their everyday needs, and at a time when the economy is bad people don't want to do all that extra driving," Charles Russell, a market manager with Walmart, told The News. "They want ways they can reduce their lifestyle costs."
Walmart's ribbon cutting was a festive event filled with music. Tillman's next door neighbor Gary Griggs performed the National Anthem, while a group of employees performed a group dance and the dance team from West Newton Elementary School performed one of its routines.