After months of political haggling and threats to scrap plans for D.C. stores in the face of a now-vetoed proposal for a higher minimum wage for large retailers, the first two Walmarts in the District are set to open tomorrow morning. One will be located on upper Georgia Avenue NW. The other, at 1st and H streets NW, has gotten more attention for its urban format, with residences above the store, as well as other retailers in the building, and the absence of the Arkansas-based chain’s standard enormous surface parking lot. “We’re the guinea pig,” says H Street store manager Eric Quist of the urban format.
But inside, Quist says, the store is just a typical Walmart. With the exception of a slightly larger international-food offering (think Goya) and some “ethnic” beauty products, he says, it’s no different from what you’d find in a Walmart in, well, Arkansas—-just smaller, at 74,000 square feet, compared to the usual 90,000-plus. Groceries take up 38 percent of its square footage.
F0llowing tomorrow’s ribbon-cutting ceremony at 7:30, the store will be open daily from 6 a.m. to midnight. And the 300 associates it’s hired—-at a wage Quist won’t reveal, except to say that it’s higher than the minimum wage—-are fired up. At least that’s what they shouted repeatedly when Quist asked them every 30 seconds or so, how they were doing. It went like this:
Quist: “How you feeling?”
All nearby associates, in unison: “Fired up!”
Quist: “What do you wanna be?”
Associates (unison): “Accident-free, neat, clean, and friendly.”
Quist: “Thank you all for what you do!”
Associates (unison): “Our privilege!”
Click on the photo below for a slideshow of the store:
Photos by Aaron Wiener