By Jeremiah Dobruck
6:39 PM PST, December 1, 2012
Wal-Mart already had a presence in Irvine where its Pacific divisional offices are based, but on Wednesday it opened its first store in the city, adding 300 workers and inviting in the public.
Employees, city officials and a line of shoppers christened the 134,376-square-foot supercenter at 71 Technology Drive with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The chain's supercenters combine Wal-Mart's normal retail operation with a discount supermarket. This location includes a bakery, deli, pharmacy and digital-photo processing center.
A second Irvine store near the same size is scheduled to open early next year about 15 minutes away at Barranca Parkway and Von Karman Avenue.
That will bring the total number of Wal-Mart locations in Orange County to 23. Wal-Mart has about 5,000 employees in the county, said Chad Donath, acting regional general manager in Souther California.
After thanks and speeches, shoppers immediately followed the Irvine High School Marching Band into the store, which will operate from 6 a.m. to midnight seven days a week.
Irvine residents Manny and Mariana Megalon were among the first through the doors.
"She's a big Wal-Mart shopper," said Manny, adding that Mariana previously had to trek to Foothill Ranch to find a Wal-Mart store.
Duffy Riebe, an Irvine resident since 1968, wasn't so quick to shop, but stopped by the grand opening out of curiosity, he said.
"I don't mind [Wal-Mart]," he said. "My wife likes shopping at it all the time."
But he did make his way to the front of the crowd for a look at the local nonprofits the Wal-Mart Foundation contributed to as part of the opening.
Overall, Wal-Mart donated $43,000, which included $25,000 to Working Wardrobes, $10,000 to Families Forward, and $1,500 each to the Irvine Fire and Police departments.
Councilman and Mayor-elect Steven Choi's home in Woodbury is near the new store.
"So I'll be your shopper," he told the crowd.
Like outgoing Mayor Sukhee Kang, Choi was bullish about the affect Wal-Mart will have on Irvine, a city that leans on its sales taxes.
"More than anything else, if you are shopping here, you're helping city revenue," Choi said.