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Pasadena Star News: Altadena Walmart grocery store opens


ALTADENA - Walmart's Neighborhood Market opened its doors Friday morning, completing its arrival in the community while questions remain about a possible second location in Altadena.

Store managers held a ribbon cutting before a crowd of about 100 people surged in to the new 28,000-square-foot store at 2408 Lincoln Ave.

The Neighborhood Market is a conventional grocery store that focuses solely on food and pharmacy items, unlike Walmart's big-box stores.

Customers browsing the aisles for the first time said they were pleased by what they saw.

"Just looking around the quality of the meats looks better," said Hugh Hamberry, who normally shops at Ralph's. "I do see the difference in the prices, because I do the shopping in my family."

When it was announced last summer, Altadena's reaction to Walmart's arrival in the community was a mix of support because of job creation and opposition because of concerns that it would drive out small businesses.

The company didn't need any permits to open on Lincoln Avenue, so opponents recognized from the start there was little they could do other than promote local mom-and-pop businesses.

The controversy has now moved to Lake Avenue and Calaveras.

"While we don't have any new sites to announce in Altadena, we're always evaluating new opportunities like the Lake site to be closer to our customers and be part of the solution for affordable groceries," Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo said in an email.

A Walmart opposition group, Neighbors Building A Better Altadena, tried to convince the Altadena Town Council last month to support a moratorium that would have prevented large development at the site.

Council member Jamie Bissner was one of two to support a moratorium, though his plan would only have given the council more control over development and would not have prevented Walmart from moving in.

"It would close the door, but there was no lock on it," he said.

Both the Ralphs building and the just-opened Walmart were once part of another chain, Market Basket, so having two Walmarts in Altadena wouldn't be unprecedented, Bissner said.

But he worries about the effect of a second store.

"In comes Walmart, and out goes Ralphs, and all we've got is another building that could be burned down, and we've got another crater," he said.

Several Town Council members attended Friday's grand opening and expressed satisfaction with the impact it has already made. The store employs 65 people, about half of them Altadena residents.

"We were wanting local hires as much as possible, because the more people from the community involved employed and working, the most investment we have in the community," council president Bernardean Broadus said.

Walmart also handed out grants to several local schools and organization as part of its opening ceremony, including $1,500 for Jackson Elementary School and $1,000 for Muir High School.

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