Controversial Store’s Opening Attracts 2,000
More than 2,000 fans snaked through a parking lot sprinkled with out-of-state vans early Saturday. Friends saved places in line for those responding to the calls of nature.
No, this wasn’t a rock concert. These were discount-hungry shoppers queued up for the grand opening of the controversial ShopKo superstore at 44th and Regal.
Members of the Ferris High School Jazz Band blasted antsy shoppers with tunes until the crowd drowned them out with chants of “Go-go-go-go…” minutes before the 9 a.m. opening.
Richard Kao, a foreign exchange student from Taiwan, decided to see what the early morning commotion was all about and buy a vacuum for his new apartment.
“I’ve seen this kind of crowd before,” Kao said. “It’s like this in Taiwan for Chinese New Year.”
Store manager Fred Jakubek kicked off the opening ceremonies by cutting a red ribbon to the main entrance. He urged the crowd not to rush the store in anticipation of prize giveaways.
Jennifer Minor stormed the beginning of the line. She and her family couldn’t find a parking space in the filled-to-capacity lot, so they had to hustle to the front or forsake free candy bars and coupons.
“I’m doing this because I wanna win a trip to Disneyworld!” she beamed.
Minor was one of the first 1,500 adults to enter ShopKo and receive KitKat candy bars featuring “peel and win” stickers with prizes ranging from trips to Disneyworld, Caribbean cruises, 27-inch color TVs, bicycles and a 1995 Geo Tracker. All customers received 10 percent off ShopKo purchases under $300.
The 88,000-square-foot store will bring the county 150 full- and part-time jobs and $700,000 in sales tax revenue annually. As the only full-service discount store on the South Hill, it’s also likely to bring an onslaught of traffic to the residential area.
“It might cause an increase in traffic, but the response from the community has been great - lots of compliments,” Jakubek said.
The South Hill ShopKo has been accustomed to community response, be it supportive or disdainful, since it was first proposed nine years ago.
Plans for the store were in the works since 1986, but city and county planning departments opposed rezoning. The proposed store was twice as large as any commercial site allowed under the code.
But in April 1991, city and county commissioners approved a rezone to make way for ShopKo. Within days, incensed South Hill residents formed a lobbying group called People Against South Hill ShopKo, and some local officials were critical.
“The whole issue was and still is that there isn’t a comprehensive transportation plan that’s consistent between the city and the county,” said Pat Mummey, a ShopKo opponent who was county commissioner during the rezone.
“Those big businesses shouldn’t figure out where their next store will go,” Mummey said. “The community should. That’s what really bothers me.”
At the Saturday shopping frenzy, Jennifer Minor’s husband, Cesar, stocked up on toilet paper and tried to keep close reins on his 6-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter while his wife searched for the bathroom.
Although he was disappointed he didn’t win a trip to Disneyworld, he plans to come back next month.