Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market opens today in East Ridge

A half dozen of the supermarkets are slated for Chattanooga area

Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets

Wal-Mart opened the first local Neighborhood Market in Fort Oglethorpe in January followed by stores in East Brainerd, Dalton and today, East Ridge. The targeted opening dates for the remaining new stores are: * Nov. 11 in Hixson in the Highland Plaza shopping center at 3901 Hixson Pike. * Jan. 6 in Middle Valley near Ganns Middle Valley Elementary School. * Jan. 27 at the corner of Shallowford and Moore roads. Source: Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart continues its march onto the Chattanooga-area supermarket field at 7:30 a.m. today with the grand opening of the East Ridge Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, the fourth of seven such stores slated here.

Planned festivities included a rendition of the national anthem by former East Ridge Mayor Vince Dean.

"I have it on word of mouth that he is actually really good," store manager William Venable said.

Other scheduled highlights were a presentation of colors by the ROTC at East Ridge High School, which isn't far from the Neighborhood Market at 4150 Monroe St. off Ringgold Road behind the Bojangles fast food restaurant. It's on the site of on a former public swimming pool run by East Ridge Youth Foundation.

Half a dozen mascots were scheduled to show up, including from Coca-Cola, Hot Pockets microwaveable sandwiches and the Chattanooga Lookouts minor league baseball team.

Venable expected the Lookouts' mascot, Looie, to help lead the "Wal-Mart cheer," a high-energy, group spelling out of Wal-Mart complete with a wiggle for the "squiggle," or hyphen, that is used to separate Wal and mart.

"It's just something that we do to pump up our associates," said Venable. Employees at the 24-hour store will do the cheer daily, he said, at the end of the three shift meetings.

Venable expected 100 to 150 people would show up for the early-morning grand opening, based on crowds that came for other area store openings.

Wal-Mart's Neighborhood Market grocery stores have gas stations and pharmacies with drive-through windows. The 41,000-square-foot East Ridge store will employ about 95 people. Wal-Mart recently boosted its lowest-paying jobs above minimum wage to $9 an hour.

"Of course I'm excited, this is great for East Ridge," said District 8 Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd, who represents East Ridge.

The new Neighborhood Market has changed the face of East Ridge, he said, where the old pool used to be.

"It's brand new. It looks great," said Boyd, who was a life guard at the pool, which was built in the late 1960s, and he met his wife there. "I hated to see it go, but things get out of date and need to be replaced."

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or twitter.com/meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.