Walmart invites public to grand reopening event this weekend

Shelby Lewis considers the day a Walmart store opened in Seymour in 1987 to be the best day in its history.

She hopes the second-best day is this coming Friday.

That’s when a grand reopening celebration will go from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., signifying the end of a major three-month remodeling project at the store at 1600 E. Tipton St.

“We have touched almost every single piece of merchandise in this building to do it,” Lewis said. “It’s just going to be completely different. It’s going to be so much better. It’s a lot smoother process.”

Friday’s festivities will kick off with a grand reopening ceremony that will feature a ribbon cutting with the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and Walmart grant check presentations to at least nine Jackson County organizations.

Lewis said awarding the grants is another way the store has given back to the community since she became manager in May 2021.

“Anything that I can do for the community, that’s what I want to do,” she said.

In the parking lot, there will be doughnut trucks in the morning and eight other food trucks set up around 10 a.m. Plus, there will be nonprofit organization tents, children’s activities, mascots, a cow and a calf from Prairie Farms and other store vendors with giveaways. Walmart Distribution Center in Seymour will have one of its trucks onsite, too.

Also during the event, donations will be collected for the store’s Children’s Miracle Network fundraiser for Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis.

“The store has a $15,000 goal, and we’re sitting at $11,000 right now,” said Noelle Fuhrmann, asset protection manager for the Seymour store.

Then Saturday, a Flex’n for Riley Jeep Show will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the parking lot in front of the store’s market entrance. The cost to enter is $15, and registration starts at 10 a.m. Ducks will cost $1. First-, second- and third-place prizes will be awarded.

Hamburgers, hot dogs, chips and drink combinations will be available for a $5 donation, and there will be a raffle, including a television. All proceeds from the event will go to Riley.

While the public attends these events, they are invited to step inside to check out the changes in the store.

Market Manager Toni Rodriguez said the store was last remodeled four years ago, and the company’s home office in Bentonville, Arkansas, determines when a project is needed at a store.

“This is a high-volume store,” she said. “We see a lot business, a lot of traffic, and in all honesty, the more wear and tear you get on a store in a year, the less years you’re going to go without having to remodel.”

In today’s climate and economy, especially with inflation, Rodriguez said she’s excited Walmart can invest millions of dollars into a remodeling project like it did in Seymour.

“I think that it’s awesome that we’ve done that for Seymour because we’ve got the DC here and we employ so many people in this community, so to also be able to give them a great looking store on top of it is very rewarding,” she said. “There are not a lot of companies right now saying, ‘OK, I’m going to sink almost $5 million into one facility to make sure it’s ready to go for the future for Seymour.’”

The project four years ago at the Seymour store included taking out the tile flooring and some other work. This time, though, it was a major overhaul.

The latest project, which started April 11, included a big update to the flow of inventory.

The electronics and photo departments moved from the middle of the store to the back center, and the pet department is now all in one place. Before, the fish supplies were near the garden center, and the dog and cat supplies were near the grocery aisles.

“Pets are family more so now than they were 20 or 30 years ago. We’re really investing in our pets, and we’re spending a lot more money on our pets,” Rodriguez said.

“Pets has such a bigger offering than what it had before,” she said. “Just to be able to expand categories as our neighborhoods and our communities have changed, we are developing more of a store and that community aspect with the shopping experience, so trying to give Seymour specifically more offerings in the categories that mean the most to them.”

Paper goods and chemicals also are now together, back near the pet department. Before, they were in separate places.

The infants department also is closer to grocery.

“What we did is we tried to get all of the consumables into one general location for all of your consumable needs,” Lewis said.

All of the seasonal items now are in one location, too, near the general merchandise entrance.

“Before, we had a random seasonal aisle in the middle of the store, so now, we have a whole seasonal section up front in front of the registers, a one-stop shop,” Fuhrmann said.

“That’s really nice to have all of our seasonal shop (in one place),” Lewis said. “That will change seasons, like Halloween, Christmas. It will all be in one area versus everywhere.”

Speaking of the registers, those have changed in the front of the store. The total number went from 31 to 45, and there are now 12 manned registers and 33 self-checkouts.

The number of self-checkouts nearly doubled, Lewis said.

“I think most retailers are doing that,” she said of offering self-checkouts. “It’s just kind of the way of the future.”

Customers also have new carts to use. Those are a little bit taller and include phone, key and cup holders.

Also, signage all around the inside of the store is new, new paint was applied to the interior and exterior, the restrooms were completely rebuilt and a private mother’s room for new nursing mothers was added across from the family restroom in the back of the store.

“It’s always exciting when you have a business that says, ‘OK, I’m going to invest in this store so it’s here many more years for the community,’” Rodriguez said. “Sam (Walton, founder of Walmart) said it best when he said, ‘We’re going to save people money so they can live better,’ and the remodel of this store is so that we can save Seymour money so they can live better.”